Black History Month 2020

This February at Alvis, we proudly celebrate Black History Month. Black History Month commemorates the pivotal role that African Americans have played in shaping our U.S. history, and allows us time to acknowledge the stories, struggles, and achievements that past and present members of the Black community have experienced.

The 2020 theme for this year’s Black History Month is “African Americans and the Vote,” honoring the 100-year landmark since the 19th Amendment, which granted women across the U.S. the right to vote, and the 150-year anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote in 1870.

Black History Month Alvis Blog

We thank our incredible African American staff members, clients, and leaders who represent Alvis and its mission to the fullest. 

Some of the talented individuals who have we have previously spotlighted in written pieces include Harry Cox, Keith Stevens, Terrance Hinton, Camilla Jackson, and our President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson. 

Keith Stevens is an Alvis board member, who began connecting with our organization in 2012 through his company, Proteam Solutions Inc. (PSI), in the late 1990s. Stevens previously served on the board of Community Connection for Ohio Offenders, another nonprofit that became a part of Alvis in 2012. He acknowledges the significance of Black mentorship, which he received during his teenage years working for and witnessing a successful Black family-owned business. Seeing people that could relate to him being successful gave him “nuggets of wisdom and the ability to imagine it for himself.”

He also touches on discrimination, finding that while he has faced his share of struggles and experienced racial discrimination firsthand, he encourages those who do experience adversity to “lean into” it, so they may grow and pursue their passions to the fullest—even if that might mean working twice as hard compared to people who do not experience the same hardships.

Harry Cox, Senior Cognitive Behavioral Specialist at Alvis, has directly mentored and served as a role model to our client population. After experiencing the justice system firsthand, he’s dedicated his life to helping others navigate similar challenges and experiences that he did many years ago. In a recent interview, Cox stresses the importance of client-centered therapy. “It’s not about me,” he continues to repeat. “My whole day consists of allowing a person to be themselves. Allowing them to get rid of some of the pain while they’re in the group room.” Our job at Alvis, according to Cox, is to give clients the tools they need to turn their own lives around.


Cox also acknowledges that his job doesn’t end when he leaves the reentry center for the day. After moving to Gahanna, he realized that he was further removed from the experiences of his clients, most of whom resided on Columbus’ East Side. “When I closed my door at night,” he reflects, “I couldn’t see my environment. I couldn’t see my community.” This led him to sell his house in Gahanna and move back to the East Side. Now, he’s involved with a number of local organizations, and engages with the community from the ground floor. “You ever walk into a place and every day you know that it’s going to be a new beginning? Not for you, but somebody else? That’s what I look forward to, walking in here every day.”

In one of our recent blog posts, we spotlighted Dr. Terrance Hinton, Program Manager of Reentry Services at Alvis, who oversees both EDGE and the H.I.R.E. program. The EDGE (Empower Development by Gaining Employment) Program is a five-month program assisting justice-involved individuals to overcome barriers to employment. It is a partnership between Alvis, the City of Columbus, and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio (WBDCO).

When it comes to our clients, Hinton holds the same perspective as Cox: “Reentry has always been a part of me, because I value second chances. I believe everyone should be given a second opportunity to become successful and become a productive member of society.” Helping clients unlock their maximum potential is a key motivator for Hinton to get out of bed every day.


Camilla Jackson is a Direct Support Professional (DSP) with Developmental Disability (DD) Services at Alvis. Jackson was recognized in June by the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities, winning two awards that commend her work as a DSP with Alvis: the Horizon Award and the Constellation Award. The Horizon Award celebrates Jackson’s ability to match people’s interest to events, and helping them expand their horizons, while the Constellation Award credits her capacity in providing opportunities for growth and advancement, helping co-workers become the brightest stars. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of Jackson’s job is simply being there for clients and listening to them. “I make sure that the guys are in good health, make sure they’re safe at all times.” She finds, too, that an essential component of the job is “making sure you treat them right,” and making sure “they have a good day.”

Finally, our President and CEO, Denise M. Robinson, has illustrated through her actions that she not only understands the plethora of key problems facing our community, but that it takes unity, empathy, and understanding to enact any sort of fundamental change. At our recent Amethyst graduation, she perfectly summed up what it means to be a true community advocate, telling graduates to keep us nearby “in case you need to shout down the voice of addiction when it tries to tempt you into returning to old habits,” and to know that they would “always have a personal cheering section” as they continue throughout life’s journey. 

As we celebrate this month, we recognize our own African American staff and leaders, many of whom, like the ones spotlighted above, are performing key roles (on and off the clock) in producing widespread, positive impact throughout the state.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Mentoring Month Spotlight: The Whats and Whens of Having a Mentor


Whether you are a young student looking for guidance or an established adult in search of the same, using a mentor can provide inspiration and a safe space for you to grow without judgement. Though mentors can be used in a variety of different settings, their central function is essentially the same: to guide you to becoming your best self through a strong partnership. If this sounds like something you may need, you may be wondering where to find a mentor. These guides can be found in anyone you identify with in relation to your current struggles, from hardships in the office to battles with addiction. It is extremely important for these advising minds to cultivate positive relationships with their mentee, and for them to be friendly, knowledgeable, and committed to their success. According to Mentor.com, young, at-risk adults who have had mentors are 55% more likely to enroll in college and 78% more likely to be regular volunteers. Of those with mentors, 90% were interested in also becoming a mentor and 130% are more likely to hold leadership positions. Having more than one mentor can be beneficial to provide guidance in multiple facets of life; and this mentorship can be crucial to one’s personal improvements.

Now that we know a little bit about mentorship and its general importance, let’s examine what exactly these mentors do. In short, they generously lend their knowledge, wisdom, insight, and counsel to those experiencing challenges that the mentor is familiar with. The invaluable skills and lessons they teach can greatly alter the journeys of those they are helping, and they generally are able to see areas in their mentee’s lives where there is room for some sort of improvement. They function to offer helpful encouragement, keep the spark, and push for confidence from their mentees. They also commonly create reasonable boundaries and goals for their mentees as they have typically been in their shoes at one point or another. They have the experience to ensure that the mistakes made in the past will not be made again, shifting the mentee’s focus on how to prioritize and formulate strategies surrounding their growth. This can facilitate positive personal advancement, giving the mentor and mentee both a chance to celebrate their achievements.

So, when do people use mentors? Whenever they need outside direction! You may have already had someone like this in your life without even realizing their impact, whether it be a family member, teacher, or professional colleague. Many people use mentors when they are confronted with an unfamiliar situation that seems impossible to navigate on their own. Business people in new positions, students needing academic guidance, those in recovery needing a pillar of strength, and many others find solace in knowing that mentors are available to them when they feel the challenges they are facing are insurmountable. Stars from Oprah Winfrey to Clint Eastwood have even spoken fondly of their times with mentors, and claim that encouragement from these sources early in their lives contributed immensely to their long-term success. If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, you have many options regardless of your age, lifestyle, or profession.

After speaking to Harry Cox, who has experience in the mentoring community, it is evident why the practice is so important to both these guiding hands and those they are advising. He works with three separate mentorship companies, including working with first generation college students as well as working with his nonprofit benefitting the elderly. He ultimately helps thousands of people annually through mentorship opportunities. He meets with people daily and with groups of up to 16 individuals for him to support. Getting his mentees to open up “their can of worms,” be comfortable, and be willing to work with him is crucial to their growth. He is so dedicated to their success that offers his resources to his mentees as often as necessary. He himself was brought through Alvis following release from incarceration and credits a mentor from an Alvis program as being crucial in helping him to completely change his life. His mentor told him that you need to be able to separate your wants from your needs and he challenged him to find 90 organizations in 90 days to support those needs. Since then, Harry has used these resources to obtain his Master’s Degree and various other certifications. He credits his mentor with his great success today.

With those seeking peer mentorship following to incarceration, it is important for their mentors to be aware of the trauma associated with this experience.  In order to reach self-actualization, he says, “Mentors need to help them become resilient.” Mentors should look at their personal experiences and how they directly relate to their mentees, showing how they can overcome barriers based upon the way they personally worked through them. To Harry, mentorship is putting away personal vices in order to help a person ultimately get where they intend to go. It is about individuals and dedication to fulfilling their needs. Harry also feels that mentors can be any age because wisdom and knowledge knows no bounds.  He believes a person can learn just as much from a 15-year-old as they could from an 80-year-old.

No one should feel ashamed about seeking outside help through mentors or through other types of supportive programming.  At Alvis, we encourage everyone at any stage of life to care for their personal, mental, and professional health in the most efficient way that their lifestyle permits. We celebrate mentors for all that they do, and praise those aware enough of their own struggles for reaching out and utilizing this great resource.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 51 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.