When I first met a then seventeen year-old Ulyesses Dunn when I spoke to boys and girls at the Brazos County Juvenile Detention Center, he made an instant impression on me. I immediately could sense the potential and promise inside of him to want to be a better person, to take the necessary steps in order to achieve his goals of a positive and productive future. What he needed was for someone to encourage him to believe in himself. I eventually ended up becoming his mentor, a way of paying back how I myself had been mentored when I was his age, remembering how much of a difference mentors made in my life. I promised Ulyesses that I would be by his side and in his life for the long-haul, serving a source of steady encouragement, guidance, and support. We weren’t just mentor and mentee, but brothers, with Ulyesses having a permanent place in my heart.
Since then, Ulyesses has experienced several high and lows, having successfully defied odds to graduate from A&M Consolidated High School, found gainful employment, and becoming a father to precious baby London. Unfortunately, life is never all roses, and Ulyesses has had to deal with thorns and roadblocks in his journey. Through it all, I have never, and will never, give up on him. The promise I made to him when we first connected to be in his life as long as I am living is one I intend to keep, continuing to leave a light of for my brother to help him find his way to all that the Lord has for him to prosper, even when things may seem so dark.
Today, Ulyesses turns twenty-one, an incredible milestone for a young man who has been through so much. Although I’m not able to see him right now, I don’t want Ulysesses to ever forget how important he is to me, and how I will keep loving and caring for him. As he heard me say when I gave that initial talk to the kids in juvenile detention, our pasts don’t have to define our futures. Even though we didn’t grow up under the same circumstances and have had different experiences, I see myself in Ulyesses, and him in me. The same way I found myself after losing my way is what I want to be able to offer him. That is the calling I’ve answered in being his mentor and brother, an honor and duty I will forever uphold.
Happy birthday Ulyesses.