For the Common Good: Mentoring Youth

St. Thomas’ mission of enhancing the common good runs deeper and expands beyond the campus’ parameter. For many students, the saying has been woven into their identity throughout their four-year experience, even becoming some individuals’ life mantras.

The Newsroom is highlighting some people who have studied at Opus College of Business undergraduate programs and who have magnified diversity, youth empowerment, the well-being and safety of the Twin Cities community and beyond.

In this installment, learn more about Johnny Allen Jr. ’02, a member of the St. Thomas Alumni Advisory Board.

Johnny Allen Jr. ’02

Johnny Allen Jr. ’02 developed the idea that evolved to be the JK Movement when he was a student-athlete at St. Thomas.

“I knew I wanted to do something [in life] that was related to life skills and athletics,” he said.

During his sophomore year, Allen’s football coach reached out to him asking if he wanted to speak to students from north Minneapolis who were visiting campus.

“It was rewarding. [They] were junior high kids and they were looking up to [me] , they were listening to [me], they were engaging with [me]. After speaking with them, I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ I want to work with youth,” he explained.

“The experience that I had at St. Thomas with that one opportunity gave me my purpose,” he said.

The years following this experience, Allen worked to fine-tune his idea for a youth mentorship program. He was an educational assistant in a Level 4 school, he was an adviser in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and he volunteered at his old elementary school.

“In the nonprofit world, you're not here to get rich in terms of monetary gain. My richness is seeing the young folks grow and being productive citizens,” he said.

The greater audience that the JK Movement works with has dealt with challenges that Allen says were far worse than what he has dealt with. Most of the youth are holding on the best they can. His goal is to let these young people know that the JK Movement does listen to them and want them to be successful.

“This is the reason why I am on this earth. I grew up in an era where community was sacred and beautiful. Outside of my parents, I had mentors who believed in me and saw something in me. I had people who believed in me and now I’m trying to do that with the youth that we work with today,” he said.