Torron Mollett (’17) describes the neighborhood where he grew up as “rough.” As a young teen, he lost his father to gun violence, and the formerly bubbly kid began to act out. His school placed him in a program that helped kids with behavioral difficulties.
He took back to his neighborhood what he learned in the program and became a peer mentor to other kids, encouraging them to get more involved with academics.
Fast forward to college. Mollett visited several schools, but "Clarion felt like home," he said. He was invited to take part in the Summer Bridge Program, in which incoming freshmen can strengthen their academic skills.
"I felt like it would give me that jump start – if I didn't take it, I feel like I wouldn't have been there," he said. "It made me understand, 'I can do this. If I put my mind to it, I can study and get that degree.'"
As he pursued his degree, he continued to serve his peers and was among the first mentors for the GEMS program, which helps African American males stay focused on academics, and its sister program, RUBIES, which helps African American females in the same way.
"I worked in the office of Minority Student Services, and we got yearly statistics on retention rates for African American students. Females were graduating, but males weren't," Mollett said. "I felt it was important to step up, be a leader and help young men graduate."
When Mollett graduated in May 2017 with degrees in political science and criminal justice, he addressed fellow graduates as student commencement speaker. Among them were six young men, the first cohort of graduates from GEMS.
Three years later, Mollett is preparing for another May graduation ceremony, this time from University of Baltimore with a master's degree in criminal justice and a certificate in trauma informed.
"By selecting the major and certificate I did, this aligns with my future goals of becoming a federal worker in the area of investigating crimes and enforcing federal laws," Mollett said. "A criminal justice degree gives you an education in law, legal jurisprudence and justice for both criminals and victims. Many criminal justice majors use this degree to enter the legal field, and some go to law school. I use my degree to help both the cities of Pittsburgh and Baltimore by educating young African American males and females of the justice system."
He is employed by the Department of Juvenile Services as a residential advisor at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center. There, he provides supervision and guidance by observing, interacting and assisting young men with everyday life skills and advising them of appropriate alternative behaviors.
"Every day is an opportunity to make a positive impact in these young men's lives. Most of the young men I interact with don't have the most positive upbringing, and to be that role model means so much, not only to them, but to myself," Mollett said. "Because of my own experiences as a youth, I am well equipped to converse with and assist them when it comes to decision making."
Volunteer work is a high priority for him.
"It's important – giving back." Mollett said. "Life repeats itself, so giving back and helping someone is something you should do."
In addition to being a mentor for Baltimore's Big Brother Big Sister program, Mollett volunteers as assistant director for Young Black Motivated Kings & Queens, a community-based organization made up of some of the most dedicated young men and women in Pittsburgh.
"In the face of constant discouragement and scrutiny, a group of young men and women have chosen to stand apart and show the community that young black kings and queens are active, motivated and empowered to be the change," Mollett said. "We are aware of how we are often depicted in mainstream media, and even perceived by some of our peers. YBMKQ is our attempt to counteract this narrative, and we invite others to do the same, no matter their circumstance or background."
Mollett, the oldest of four children, is the first member of his family to graduate from college.
"Attending Clarion University will always be one of those success stories I can tell people. I learned to be confident and independent. I stopped questioning decisions I made and started believing in myself. That's when I found myself wanting to be more than just a leader. I found myself wanting to be a community activist, humanitarian, public intellectual, etc.," he said.
"My success story didn't stop when I graduated from Clarion University. It had just begun."