Leon Hampton and I are not best friends. However, we are people who greatly admire one another. Leon does not judge people by their successes or failures. Instead, he respects a person’s character and their inner mission. Leon is one of my dearest friends for one reason: we genuinely like the other’s character and believe in each other.
Leon grew up in Harlem, New York. Raised by a strong, hard-working woman, Leon learned that “when there is a will, there is a way.” Leon saw his mother work several jobs at a time to make sure he had every opportunity to grow. And, he took advantage of all those opportunities. Leon learned the importance of hard-work at a very young age. He developed determination and perseverance quickly by embracing his Caribbean and Black American culture.
“So, why do you think we help others?” I asked him one day.
“Because it’s the human thing to do. It’s innate in us.” He replied. “It takes a lot of learned behavior to not help someone while they’re in pain, Nikki.” I found this to be true when I interviewed Leon.
By going to a Jesuit high school, Leon learned to integrate community service into his daily life. His free time was spent tutoring elementary students in the community and accompanying his grandmother to the homeless outreach center. Although the school service was required, Leon happily gave up his free time to help others. No one asked him nor forced him to be generous and kind, it was simply his nature. (And, still his nature.)
“I grew up in the church.” Leon told me. He took the saying, “being a man for others,” to heart. He truly believes in giving back through mentoring. Simply put, Leon is a true mentor. As the president of the Black Alumni Association at Xavier University, Leon cultivates a community of support for Xavier’s current undergraduate students.
“Being successful and excellence is the expectation now,” Leon told me when describing his mentorships. Black excellence is more than having multiple achievements, it’s about emphasizing the importance of Black leadership. By mentoring others, Leon helps students realize their full potential.
“I recognize that it took a village to get me here.”
When I asked Leon why he mentors, he said, “If not me, then who?” Not everyone has the same background. Everyone may have the same goals, but have different means to achieve those goals. Simply put, for Leon, “It’s [my] duty to help others achieve their goals.”
Currently, Leon has passed the Bar Exam and graduated Law School. He’s restarting his life after 3 years of law school. Now, he focuses on where he can put his energy. Leon has decided to use his time to continue mentoring and inspiring, but also helping out in little ways. For example, if a friend calls needing legal advice then Leon will guide them to the right sources or attorneys. In his word, he feels the need to help when he can.
While attending networking events, Leon is glad to see other students of color helping each other out. Leon started a good cycle of helping. He helped create a community where people feel comfortable mentoring others thru the hells of law school.
After spending time with Leon, I realized that he truly helps other because it is innate in him. Leon recognizes that the greatest gift to give is love regardless if you receive something in return. His journey reflects that it’s human nature to help others.
“Nikki, I think it takes a lot of learned behavior to watch someone in pain and not help. It’s hard to explain, but we are drawn to helping others. I think it’s human thing to do – to help others.” Leon said. (Thanks for inspiring us, friend. )