How do you form a diamond? With persistence, vision and commitment. Those attributes mark Darrell “Rell” Richards, this year’s MCLP “Alumni of the Year” award recipient, who will be recognized at the MCLP Class of 2019 graduation on Saturday, April 13.
Richards has a long list of community involvement – the MCLP board, Breaking Chains Advancing Increase (BCAI), 100 Black Men, Miller Park Zoo, For a Better Tomorrow, Toastmasters and Milestones’ Early Learning Center, organizations where he is either a board member or an active volunteer.
Richards Class of 2016 MCLP experience was “transformative. I was able to adopt MCLP as a lifestyle change – a culture. This enabled me to embrace the better version of myself.”
Youth needs are a center of Richards’ volunteerism. He grew up in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes and found little encouragement in school, feeling already written off and forgotten. With his talent in art and own goals, he surpassed inner-city school expectations and found a road to success.
When he came to Bloomington in 2012, he had little expectation, settling into his job at State Farm and not finding the community he desired. MCLP exposed him to a diverse community and local human needs. Through the MCLP process he felt he tuned into the “gem of my own self-discovery. It allowed me to see the dynamics of what I brought to the table and attuned my emotional intelligence.”
Since then, Richards is a regular youth mentor and volunteer. With BCAI he leads art workshops for children 6-16, treating them all as equals in the classroom and helping them educate and cultivate each other. With 100 Black Men of Central Illinois, he is active as a mentor with the junior high Passport to Manhood effort and with high school students, the Mentoring for Life program.
Currently working at Caterpillar in Peoria, Richards helps design marketing displays and other graphic materials. This employment means he is an involved volunteer in both Peoria and Bloomington-Normal.
Looking at others seeking to develop their leadership, he encourages everyone to “never stop being authentic to who you are and striving to make a difference. Keep in mind who you need to be and help those you need to help. Remember, the number one job of a leader is making more leaders.”
Click here to register by Thursday, April 4 to attend the MCLP graduation and support Rell as he is recognized for his community service.
By Mike Matejka