Former MU Athlete Finds Purpose in Mentoring Relationship

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COLUMBIA - Father-son relationships vary within every family. But Jimmie Jones and Tre Holder say their acquired relationship goes deeper than any blood ties. 

Jones and Holder met at Oakland Junior High School where Jones served as a mentor for the Boys Empowerment Club. Holder was 14 at the time and had been changing foster homes more than once a year. 

"I've been in 20 foster homes," said Holder. "I was struggling, life wasn't too good, life was hard. I couldn't focus in school, I didn't have anyone that cared about me."

Jones came from Detroit to the University of Missouri on a track scholarship, but quickly got involved with education and volunteering in Columbia. 

"Detroit is known for having the highest drop out rates in the nation and just a poor public school system in general." said Jones. "When I came here I noticed the way people are teaching youth these days is not helping these students connect. So I felt that I could get involved with education and disturb the norm."

Jones started volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters, but realized the classroom was where he wanted to make a difference. Outreach counselor Dana Harris said Jones came in and made an immediate impact.

"I met Jimmie while he was working for the True North Shelter," said Harris. "He came to Oakland to give a presentation about domestic violence and it was so good...He has been committed to volunteering and mentoring ever since."

When Holder moved on to Hickman High School, Jones felt it was still necessary to stay in touch. 

"I was picking him up at least once a week from school, he also came over to my house once in a while," said Jones. "I was just trying to continue building a relationship."

Holder continued to experience some setbacks with his family and living situations. And at 15, Holder fathered a child. 

"I knew that if Tre did not get help quickly, he would have no chance of achieving his goals," said Jones. "He reminded me a lot of myself, he just needed some guidance. I was talking to him one day and I could hear the hurt and the aspiration in his voice so I used that to take a step of faith." 

Jones at this time was a graduate education student at MU and made the decision to become Holder's legal guardian.

"I know he has goals, I know he has dreams, and so I wanted to bring him into my home because I knew that I could help make something out of nothing," said Jones.

"I already admired Jimmie so when he asked me to move in, I was really happy," said Holder.

In the past five months alone, Holder has improved his grades, his goals, and his outlook on life.

"I am finally at a place, where I can open up, and be myself," said Holder. "I just feel comfortable. I don't even see this as a foster home, I see this as home. He takes care of me like I am his little brother."

"He is like a son, a brother and a friend," said Jones.

Jones says he has a strong passion for education, so he makes sure Holder is working to get into college. Holder says he will not allow any of his past struggles to keep him back.

"I know I have a daughter, and I have no regrets. I get to do for my daughter what my father never did for me," said Holder. "That's being a good dad."

"I have watched those two grow," said Harris. "And it is just the most amazing thing. When Tre has a problem or needs a moment, he honestly feels he can go to Jimmie and talk to him. I see Jimmie as a proud papa and I am watching Tre become more and more respectful and mature."

Jones said it is not about the recognition it is about the results. 

"I want to create leaders so they can go out and do the same thing," said Jones. "And I think it is important for minority youth to see people like them doing positive things."

Holder now works at Mad Cow restaurant, is a junior at Hickman High School and is raising his one-year-old daughter. He is working toward going to college and becoming a music producer.