In 2010, Jason Williams founded and launched the Aspire Movement, a mentoring ministry geared toward developing & deploying the next generation of urban leaders through mutually transforming relationships. But why?
The answer is two-fold; his testimony and God’s call on his life.
In 1996 Jason was arrested, charged with 3 felonies. He lost his division 1 basketball scholarship at George Mason University. He described his worldview as "ghetto nihilism" which is a prevailing philosophy in urban America. Life is short, nothing matters, so live for the moment. After more arrests and a year at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, Williams moved to Birmingham, Alabama, a decision that would forever change his life.
After graduating from Birmingham Southern College, Jason repented for his sinful ways and surrendered his life to Christ. He immediately he felt a clear call to minister to at-risk urban youth who grew up with some of the same issues he faced. Williams' conviction that urban youth lack social capital and encouragement led him to start a life on life mentoring program that matches students with Godly role models to walk alongside each other in a dignity-affirming relationship.
We started with a small group of pioneering mentors in 2011 who were matched with 4th graders at Restoration Academy. In just 3 years, Aspire had expanded to impact over 200 students in 9 schools. Now after 7 years, we currently have mentors at CJ Donald, Avondale, Oliver, Tuggle & Princeton Elementary, as well as Fairfield Middle, Fairfield HS, Restoration Academy and Cornerstone. We have also added an after school component of Bible & Tutoring Club where we promote reading enrichment through Christian books and resources. Every summer we send a group of over 15 students to Kids Across America in Branson Missouri for a week long Christ-centered inspirational experience.
We hope to provide guidance and direction to urban youth in order that they minimize poor choices and maximize good choices. It is our vision that we see mentors placed in the lives of students all over Birmingham and beyond.
In short, Aspire grew out of a movement of Christians who desire to see God glorified and lives impacted by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing transformation best occurs in the context of relationship, Aspire values people over programs. Aspire intentionally engages in mutually-transforming relationships with urban youth, working with them to bring hope and healing to the community while addressing our own needs for the restorative power of Jesus. They seek to place godly advocates in the lives of elementary school students who are committed to walking alongside the children in an intentional way.
Ultimately the belief is that urban communities will be restored by indigenous leaders that are intentionally developed & deployed through this initiative. The Aspire Movement's hope is to train a new generation of leaders from the community to be the gospel change agents of tomorrow through a number of avenues. Sometimes an infusion of hope and help from the outside is all that is needed to make a monumental difference. That is where our mentors and volunteers come in. They are tasked with being a model, encourager, friend, and advisor to the children over the course of many years.