HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – You’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

One mentoring program, which was created during the pandemic in Hinds County, has evolved to provide support to young men as they transition into adulthood. Hinds County Justice Court Judge Kenny Lewis leads the mentoring program with his wife, Vickie.

“I stand before them so they won’t ever have to stand before me. That’s where it was born from,” he explained.

Lewis visits schools, community gatherings, and churches to mentor young men. He said some of the young men grew up without a father figure in their life.

Alex Jefferson, a mentee, said he was getting into fights at school. He said Lewis’ encouraging words helped motivate him. He said he’s having less problems as a student at Vicksburg High School.

Floresa Minor has been raising Jefferson as a single mom, and appreciates mentoring programs like this in the community. Now, Jefferson said he’s able to open up more to his mother, which wasn’t the case before.

“He needed someone to talk to, that could maybe help him with some of the things he was experiencing that he didn’t feel comfortable talking to me about,” said Floresa Minor, Jefferson’s mother.

Jefferson said it’s so important to have a male figure in his life, someone that he can look up to.

“It made me feel like I had somebody I can lean on,” said Jefferson.

Braeden Donaldson, another mentee, went through his own insecurities.

“Now if somebody talks about my height, I’m like, ‘Okay.’ I’m still a good enough height to do what I want to do in my life,'” said Donaldson.

His dream is to go pro on the football field.

Donaldson said Lewis taught him how to obey the law. His confidence gradually grew, too.

“My husband, we give them the great advice we give them. Sometimes when he (Lewis) comes along and states the same thing in a different way, he hears it,” explained Stacey Donaldson, Donaldson’s mother.

According to Hinds County officials, there are roughly 800 males in the Hinds County Detention Center. Of that, 90% are African American men.

Lewis is working to curb that number in and out of the courtroom.

Over the years, Lewis said he’s reached hundreds, even going across state lines to offer his services mentoring the youth.