JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Around Maddie V. Rutherford Alternative School, Dr. Jerome Mosley's presence is felt in a big way.
“A lot of people like to say, oh, that's my right hand,” Principal Sadie Milliner-Smith said. "No. He's both of my hands. He keeps me lifted up and supports the mission and the vision of the school."
As assistant principal, Mosley works with fourth through eighth graders in Duval County who are placed at the alternative school for usually about 45 days when they violate their school’s code of conduct. He's on a mission to instill hope in them.
“We always tell them, don't get that mentality to think that you're going to go to jail if you come here,” Mosley said. "No, you come here, learn some strategies, and then you go back and do what you have to do."
Milliner-Smith, who nominated Mosley for 12 Who Care, says he goes above and beyond to not only encourage students at the school, but also students who are part of the mentoring organization he founded, Bridge Builders United.
“He finds time after students leave here to go and work with his nonprofit organization where he provides academic support, behavioral support,” Milliner-Smith said. “Reducing that pipeline to prison with our kids, by decreasing those chances of a kid to go out and become engaged with the criminal justice system.”
From making home visits to taking a group of kids on monthly camping trips, his goal is to motivate them not to give up.
“We teach them about leadership, they learn how to set up tents, they all get responsibilities, we teach them archery, a lot of different things outdoors,” Mosley said “It's overnight, so at night, we talk around the fire. We talk about manhood.”
A product of Duval County schools himself, Mosley teaches kids the importance of giving back to their community.
“I wanted to create this organization to be able to support these youth and connect them to resources and pull out the positives in them or teach them what they may have.”
His dedication to transforming and empowering youth is why Mosley was selected as a 12 Who Care Honoree.
“I love when I can get through to the youth,” Mosley said. “And to get this recognition, to me, it puts Bridge Builders in the forefront more than me to just let people know that we do have a lot of positive things going on in Jacksonville. And everything is not negative. And we do have youth that some people might have written off and just say, ‘Oh, give up on them.’ Their lives are changing.”
To learn more about Bridge Builders United click here.
RELATED: 12 Who Care: Ponte Vedra army veteran on a mission to train service dogs for children with autism