Jason Owens focuses on role modeling

The Amachi Knoxville mentor says "I see now that every child must have a parent if they're going to get their chance."

What drew you to mentor a child whose parent is incarcerated?

My wife suggested it. And I have family history with some young people-—if I'd had the chance, I should have done some more mentoring. Their parents weren't in prison, just sometimes not there.

You've mentored the same child for three years?

Yes, Jonathan was 12 when we began. We try to meet two-three times a month. We go out to movies, try to do some homework, and just kind of hang out. In summer we play ball. We've had talks—recently mostly about the importance of education, but we've had a couple of deep conversations about him, his feelings, his desires.

Do you ever meet the incarcerated parent?

I've never met Jonathan's mother, she's incarcerated in Memphis. But there's no "soul saving" going on. Any child in this situation, any conflict between the mentor and the parent, the child would totally side with his parent. I stick to role modeling.

What's the hardest part of being a mentor?

Seeing that he needs full-time parents, and only being able to be a part-time mentor.

Do you mention staying out of prison?

We don't talk about it much, mainly because he is a good kid, he's smart, he doesn't have behavior issues—more just youthful issues, trying to figure out who he is, forgetting about homework. I'm a college graduate, another African American male. Try to be an example, that's my main role.

Has the experience benefitted you?

Absolutely. My daughter is seven months old. The absolute, mandatory thing I see now is that every child must have a parent if they're going to get their chance. I'm more dedicated than ever to being there for my children.

—Rose Kennedy