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February 9, 2024

Black History Month Series:
Honoring Mayor Jerry L. Demings

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By:  Jatika Hudson

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Since 2018 and throughout his second term, Mayor Jerry L. Demings has served Orange County with great diligence, dedication and pride. His story is one filled with significant role models who have propelled his wings to soar. As a mentor and once a mentee, he shares how people in his family and local community influenced the trajectory of his life.

 

 

Today, Demings serves as the first African American mayor of Orange County Government. Managing a county that is home to more than 1.4 million residents and a

$7 billion budget. And make no mistake, he is unshakeable. His demeanor is much accredited to the people who instilled confidence in him and his capabilities early on in life.

 

 

Demings recalls his first and most influential mentors were his parents. In his words, they poured into his life and future and helped to shape the community leader he is today. “My mother and father were instrumental in the formation of my moral beliefs, work ethic and volunteer service,” said Demings. Although his parents introduced him to his faith, it was his spiritual mentor, the late Rev. Dr. George Lovelace Champion, the former pastor of St. Mark AME Church in Orlando, “who influenced both my spiritual development and maturation into manhood," he recalled.

 

 

Beginning his career in law enforcement as an officer, he found a professional mentor in Deputy Chief Charlie Wright of the Orlando Police Department. He would later ascend to the highest-ranking leadership role in the police department, becoming the first African American Police Chief for the City of Orlando and later the first African American Sheriff of Orange County. By this time, he couldn’t discount the enormous impact his mentors had made on his life and the decisions he would later make.

 

 

Because of these fruitful mentoring experiences, Demings is happy and proud to support community-based mentoring organizations like MAN UP. It’s his way of paying it forward to youth in his community who need the guidance and wisdom that a strong and dedicated mentor can provide. “Trustworthy mentors are necessary to provide real-life experiences for positive personal development and outcomes,” he shared.

 

 

Here, you can discover more about Demings triumphant journey as he shares nuggets of wisdom in hopes of inspiring others to pursue their goals.

 

 

MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MUM): Who was your mentor as a teen or young adult?

 

Jerry L. Demings (JLD): Reverend Dr. George Lovelace Champion, Sr. was my faith leader and mentor as a teenager. Deputy Chief Charlie Wright of the Orlando Police Department was my professional mentor as a law enforcement officer. My parents mentored me in becoming a parent myself and raising my children.

 

 

MUM: Why did you choose them to mentor you? or was it an organic relationship, meaning looking back you now see them as a mentor?

 

JLD: I had other mentors, coaches, schoolteachers, college professors, civil rights leaders and supervisors who helped me along the journey of life. However, as I look back over life, my parents were organically my best mentors. There are too many for me to specifically acknowledge at this time, but I appreciate all those who poured their wisdom into my development.

 

 

MUM: What was a turning point or defining moment that changed the course of your life?

 

JLD: Graduation from Florida State University

 

 

MUM: What was the hardest lesson you learned early on?

 

JLD: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. In other words, make certain that your career aspirations allow for flexibility in the journey, but be intentional about the goals you want to achieve. Also, it may be wise to share your plans with only a few trusted friends or relatives. Everyone will not celebrate your success, because your success may remind them of their failures.

 

 

MUM: How did you overcome setbacks or failures in life? Do you openly share your story with others as a teachable moment?

 

JLD: Have been very successful in climbing the corporate ladder and used my failures as steppingstones to help get me where I am today. Yes, I share my story with others.

 

 

MUM: What words of wisdom did your mentor share with you that you are still applying today?


JLD: Don’t just believe your good press, because you are probably never as good or bad as you see yourself. Identify others who will give you honest feedback.

 

 

MUM: Why are youth mentoring programs like MAN UP Mentoring needed now more than ever?

 

JLD: Our youth are maturing during a technological age that is ripe.

 

 

MUM: How has your community perspective changed or shifted after volunteering or working with MAN UP?

 

JLD: My engagement with MAN UP Mentoring has reinforced my fundamental belief in the goodness that one person can bring to another.

 

 

MUM: In six words or less, describe the overall significance of mentoring at-risk youth.

 

JLD: Mentoring at-risk youth guarantees the best future!

 

 

About MAN UP Mentoring, Inc:

 

MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP) is community-based 501c (3) organization and an affiliate of My Brother’s Keeper Orlando primarily serving at-risk youth ages 11 through completion of high school or the equivalent across Metro Orlando, with a focus on delinquency prevention and intervention by providing social, educational and mentoring services. Established in 2014 by Orlando natives, brother and sister duo Christopher and Samantha Wallace. Currently, it is managed by an executive director, contractors, and a full-time staff of volunteers. MAN UP is overseen by a Board of Directors with more than 150 years of law enforcement and civilian experience, as well as advisors from the Orange County Public-school System and social services. Visit manupmentoring.com

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