Recognizing African-Americans that are making a difference in their communities

By: Nicki Wiggins

Throughout the Cleveland area, there are influential Black men and women that are making a difference in the lives of young people.

Beatrice Parker; Source: Beatrice Parker

Mrs. Beatrice ‘Bea’ Hammett-Parker is a local dance instructor who not only teaches people the art of dance, but also provides children with the opportunity to participate in activities that promote creativity, kindness, and giving back. 

At five-years-old, Parker knew dance was her passion. Since then, she has continued to make a difference in the lives of her students.

“Each student is very precious to me,” Parker said. 

Although she has been unable to see her students face-to-face during the pandemic, Parker has still found ways to keep her students involved. Artwork, sign language, and even virtual slumber parties have been different outlets for kids during the pandemic. 

From making costumes (at no cost to her students) to organizing virtual dance productions, Parker’s actions serve as a prime example that young people can strive to emulate. 

Roderick Coffee II; Source: Roderick Coffee II

Mr. Roderick Coffee II is a paraprofessional, coach, and mentor who helps to guide, inspire, and help young people to reach their full potential. 

For 21 years, Coffee has served as a football, basketball, and track coach for Painesville City Schools. During this time, he has continued to motivate and empower students through his words and actions. He credits his family structure for helping him to see the importance of connecting with youth. 

“As we grew up in the church, my dad was the youth minister and I was able to see the impact that he had on the youth,” said Coffee. “So I think that it was a blessing that God gave me to be able to reach out and relate to the young people.”

Many young people in the city look up to Coffee, come to him for guidance, and have a level of respect for him that they do not have for other people. He encourages young men and women that although it is important to dream big, work needs to be put towards it.

Valerie Walker-Isom; Source: Valerie Walker-Isom

Mrs. Valerie Walker-Isom is the founder of Teens With Purpose, a nonprofit organization that encourages teenage girls to dream big, and provides them with the skills that they need to reach their true potential. 

After seeing a need in her community, Isom made it her mission to help teenage girls identify their paths.

Through her workshops, activities, and curriculum (Back to the Basics: “Who Am I, Where Am I Going, and How Am I Going to Get There?”), Teens With Purpose members are instilled with what they need to reach their dreams and become positive young ladies in society. 

To young men and women who are trying to achieve their dreams, Isom said  “write it down, make it plain, follow it, and stay as focused as you’d be on a two-lane highway at night.”