Why You Should Know: Kevin McNair

McNair is co-founder of 1Nation Mentoring, which works with African-American boys and young men in schools throughout the county.


photo by martha rial

 

About: Kevin McNair was studying business administration at Slippery Rock University when his cousin was killed during a random act of gun violence at a party near California University. A professor encouraged McNair to channel his grief into a nonprofit. After graduation, he served at Brashear High School in Beechview as a Heinz Fellow, where he joined with Samuel Morant and Lloyd Cheatom to create 1Nation Mentoring, which works with African-American boys and young men in schools throughout the county.
 

  • It’s not unusual for Kevin McNair’s phone to ring at 2 or 3 in the morning. The teenage boys he mentors know they can call him in any situation. Maybe someone they know has been jumped by a gang and they’re thinking about retaliating; he’ll talk them down. Sometimes, they’ll say some guys they know are planning a robbery and want to get them in on it. Other times they’ll say they don’t have anything to eat at home. 
     
  • “I know how much negative stuff kids can get into if they’re not surrounded by positivity,” he says, noting he didn’t have a male mentor to look up to when he was young. “To me, it’s not just an honor, it’s a blessing to be in this place and not only help them but have them look up to me.”
     
  • McNair, Morant and Cheatom began in three schools — Brashear, Pittsburgh Obama and Westinghouse Academy — before adding others throughout Allegheny County. McNair says the young men involved have made the program their own.
     
  • Last year, McNair won a national Jefferson Award for his work with 1Nation Mentoring. “I made so many mistakes trying to find out the truth,” he says of his own youth growing up in North Carolina. “You can’t hustle your whole life and be successful. I had to be a productive member of society.”
     
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