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Kenneth D. Rodgers

Civic minded mechanical engineer, Kenneth D. Rodgers was born September 20, 1951 in Lansing, Michigan. With family roots in Mississippi, his parents, Joe and Irene Rodgers were members of Paradise Baptist Church. As a child, Rodgers was mentored by Art Jones of the National Society of Civil Engineers. Attending Allen Street Elementary School, West Junior High School, Rodgers improved his grades and graduated from Sexton High School in 1969. At the University of Detroit, Rodgers instituted New Dawn, a youth enrichment project. He graduated with a B.S. degree in mechanical engineering in 1975 and earned a master’s in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University in 2002.

Starting as a schoolteacher, Rodgers was hired as an engineer for Goodyear in Lansing. Moving to Reading, Pennsylvania in 1978, he started a youth chapter, and became president of the NAACP. He also set up a program called Brothers and Sisters. In 1982, Rodgers moved to the Chicago area. Youth Action Ministries (YAM) was founded by Reverend Hycel B. Taylor at Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois that same year. Rodgers became volunteer executive director for YAM shortly thereafter. Programs instituted by Rodgers include: youth mentoring, tutoring, and self esteem workshops. Since 1989, YAM has offered an annual college tour highlighting historically Black colleges and universities. Through the EdgeUp project, Rodgers introduces students to engineering.

A member of the Evanston Zoning Board, the Coalition for the Improvement of Education in South Shore, Rodgers also serves on the boards of the Chicago Children’s Museum and the Children’s Defense Program. He works as an engineer for Greely Hanson in Chicago and is vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers. Honored for his community service, Rodgers is a popular motivational speaker.

Accession Number

A2004.253

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/9/2004

Last Name

Rodgers

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Occupation
Schools

University of Detroit Mercy

Allen Street Elementary School

West Junior High School

J.W. Sexton High School

Northwestern University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Evenings, Weekends

First Name

Kenneth

Birth City, State, Country

Lansing

HM ID

ROD03

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/20/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Tacos

Short Description

Youth advocate Kenneth D. Rodgers (1951 - ) served as the volunteer executive director for Youth Action Ministries. Rodgers is also an engineer for A.M. Kinney Inc. in Chicago, and has served as vice president of the National Society of Black Engineers.

Employment

Commonwealth Associates Inc.

A.M. Kinney

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kenneth D. Rodgers' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kenneth D. Rodgers lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about his parent's background and his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his parents' contribution to their local African American community

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his paternal grandfather and father's work

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kenneth D. Rodgers remembers growing up in Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes the values his parents instilled in their children

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Lansing, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes himself as a student

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kenneth D. Rodgers reflects on the transformation from his childhood to his more responsible adult self

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about his extracurricular activities at J.W. Sexton High School and his influences during that time

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kenneth D. Rodgers recalls dropping out of University of California, Los Angeles and then entering the University of Detroit in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about his involvement in community organizations as a young adult

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company while attending the University of Detroit in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about his involvement with civic organizations in Reading, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about moving to Chicago, Illinois and his involvement in community organizations in the Chicagoland area

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his youth organization, Youth Action Ministry (YAM), in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his approach with the children in Youth Action Ministry (YAM)

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his motivational philosophy for Youth Action Ministry (YAM)

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about the leadership of children in Youth Action Ministry (YAM) and the program's college attendance rate

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes a Youth Action Ministry workshop

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about HistoryMaker Tavis Smiley's Youth to Leaders program and selecting topics to cover during Youth Action Ministry workshops

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about instilling self-esteem into young African Americans

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about the yam symbolism used in Youth Action Ministry (YAM)

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about Youth Action Ministry's connection to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes the history of Second Baptist Church in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about the racism experienced during Youth Action Ministry trips

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about HBCUs and the importance of African Americans knowing their history

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about the college scholarship opportunities available for African Americans

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes the importance of preparing African American children for higher education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kenneth D. Rodgers reflects upon an incident from his childhood he regrets and the life lesson learned from it

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kenneth D. Rodgers reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about his parents' opinion of his success

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kenneth D. Rodgers describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kenneth D. Rodgers narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Kenneth D. Rodgers describes his youth organization, Youth Action Ministry (YAM), in Evanston, Illinois
Kenneth D. Rodgers talks about instilling self-esteem into young African Americans
Transcript
Okay. Well, tell us about YAM [Youth Action Ministry, Evanston, Illinois]; that seems like a major act--volunteer activity (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, Youth Action Ministry, like I said, when I got involved with it at the time, there was like--it was started at Second Baptist Church [Evanston, Illinois]; there was like five students in it. Dr. [Hycel B.] Taylor, one Sunday, announced that he was lookin' for somebody to take over his youth program. My wife [Toni Rodgers] and I--we came and we met with him and we told him that our goal was to make the youth program not a sec--not a church program, but make it community-based program, and he asked what did we mean by that, we said that we think that it's very important that we open up our doors not only to kids of the church, but kids--not only of Evanston [Illinois], but kids of the community. So we came up with this crazy idea; we said, "Why don't we do college trips during the summer?" And he goes, "Well, there's not that many people doing college trips; college trips are"--Dr. Taylor was sayin' at the time, were like really, really expensive. And we said, "Well, how about we have our kids raise money? Now, we'll show the kids how to do like car washes, we'll show 'em how to sell t-shirts, how to sell barbeque--things that we learned in Detroit [Michigan] in Lansing [Michigan]." And we took the kids to Michigan State University [East Lansing, Michigan] the very first year that we started the Youth Action Ministry. When we got back from there, we decided that what we wanted to do was--because of--my wife is a former educator and bein' one of the financial aid officers and directors at Michigan State University, we wanted to have the kids fill out a application, so we started tutoring kids, we started doing mentoring and things like that, and from there we decided that we wanted to focus--because we were dealin' with African American kids, we wanted to focus on, on African American colleges. So we took the kids--the next time we took the kids, we took the kids to Nashville, Tennessee. We took 'em to Fisk [University, Nashville, Tennessee], we took 'em to Meharry Medical School [sic. Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee], we took 'em to the colleges in the Tennessee area, the black colleges, and that's basically how YAM got started. And since then, we have had, I would say anywhere from three to four thousand kids have actually gone through my program. Ninety-five percent of the kids that go through my program actually graduate from college, and we do--and the program is basically--there's no money that exchange--all the adults who are in the program basically volunteer their services. The kids run the program; they are the ones who make the decisions about what they wanna do, how they wanna do it; we teach the kids everything from junior toast master, public speaking, to investments, to--they even do things with senior citizens as for doin' grocery shoppin' for 'em and things like that, but our main goal is gettin' kids off the street and givin' 'em some basis for education--for them to improve themselves. We have been in Essence magazine, we have recognized--recognized [HistoryMaker] Susan Taylor, [HistoryMaker] Senator Carol Moseley Braun has recognized us, we've been recognized by the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], we've been recognized by [HistoryMaker Reverend] Jesse [L.] Jackson, [HistoryMaker] Jesse Jackson, Jr., we've been recognized by several different people. I mean we've been--every year we're getting different awards. We just got--we were just in Washington, D.C. just recently where we went to Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s office. The kids got a chance to go to the White House [Washington, D.C.], so we take--I mean this year we're takin' the kids--this spring we're takin' the kids to visit black colleges in Atlanta [Georgia]; in the summer we're takin' the kids to visit colleges in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. So, and like I said, we've been doin' this for about twenty-five years in this dynamic. It's dynamic; the kids love it.$$Now, you keep a full-time job; you're not--you don't do this for a living; this is volunteer (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) No, this is volunteer; this is, this is volunteer. I'm an engineer full-time; I'm a full-time engineer.$$All right, so do you have to write all the proposals for this organization, or--$$Actually, we have a board of directors that--actually we have a, a young lady name Jan Roy [ph.], who write proposals like for the school district; she's on the board of directors so she help us write grant proposals and things like that. My wife and I do a lotta the writing, a lotta the counseling, but we have a, a very dynamic board, and we try to select board members. Vickie Pasley, who's a well-known attorney here in Chicago [Illinois], she's our legal advisor; Bill Jackson [ph.] who's also the church's attorney, is also our legal advisor. Dr. Sandra Shelton who's a professor of accounting at DePaul University [Chicago, Illinois] is our financial advisor, so we have people--and all these people volunteer their services; everybody volunteer their services just--Judge Mary Maxwell Thomas is on our board of directors. She's been our counselor and do things for us, so we have different people, and the thing what makes it is that it's just constantly growing, it's constantly growing.$Okay. Now, in terms of the specific self-esteem issues that--I mean this is 2004. Do African American kids have different self-esteem issues than other kids in the city, you think?$$I think that--racism is, to me, is always a big thing that you gotta deal with, you know. You have to, you have to tell kids that you gonna be black all your life; no matter what you say, no matter what you do, you're gonna have to get around that. I think one of the things that--I have an adopted daughter that we adopted when she was very, very young, and she was a child who had some physical problems, medical problems. It's a thing that we--that you gotta teach kids is that you have to love yourself, pride--take some pride in yourself so--and I think African American kids sometimes feel as though that the system is always gonna be against them, so I think that yes, there are some issues that black kids deal with that other kids do not have to deal with, and I think that racism is something that, even though people keep sayin' that it doesn't exist, I--to me, I think it does exist, and I think a lotta the problems that black kids face is because of the racism in America.