Pastor Corey Duncan Sr. began mentoring 20 years ago, spurred by a sudden familial tragedy.
Duncan, then 19, looked on as his father walked his older sister, Joyce, down the aisle on her wedding day, and a moment that should have been a beautiful dream come true quickly turned into an unexpected nightmare. The bride suddenly collapsed, and it was later discovered that her heart had stopped beating.
“We called the ambulance, they come. There was a doctor in the audience who came up, and they cut her out of her dress and took her to the hospital. We were in total shock,” said Duncan. Joyce went approximately 10 to 13 minutes with no oxygen to her brain and died not long after.
Sometime later, Duncan’s family was invited to be guests on Montel Williams’ talk show during an episode about wedding day tragedies. While awaiting his time to go on set, Duncan had an idea.
“I was in the green room, and my mindset was, how do I keep my sister’s legacy alive? She had just graduated from Indiana State University, was (in her) first year (as a) first grade teacher.” He recalled that years prior, Williams, a motivational speaker, had visited his high school. “He was phenomenal,” Duncan recalled. “I thought, ‘I can do motivational speaking.’ From that moment, I started going around to schools, started mentoring, talking about the importance of education. … That was the catalyst of it all.”
The Duncan family later started the Kimberly Joyce Duncan scholarship fund in his late sister’s honor. The fund has given thousands of dollars to students headed to college.
Today, he volunteers with the Bloom Project, a local nonprofit that provides one-on-one mentoring, college preparation and other services to young men ages 12-18. On Sept. 30, Duncan will facilitate a workshop at the organization’s annual one-day seminar, King’s Feast. He sees the event as an investment in the future of our youth.
“As a preacher and pastor, my philosophy is that we gotta sow the seed. We can’t always control the ground that it falls on, but we have to sow a seed. There’s another scripture that says train up a child in the way they should go, and when they’re old they won’t depart from it,” he said. “Oftentimes, our children get out there, but if we train them up, they have a foundation to come back to. … Where there is no investment, there can be no return.”
A direct impact
“The Kings Feast Symposium has made a huge impact on the community and is how Bloom Project Inc. was created,” said founder and executive director Arnetta Scruggs. “The Kings Feast Symposium began six years ago with 50 young males. Now, it has grown substantially to the point where we had 150-plus young males, ages 12-18 in attendance last year.
“The symposium is a multifaceted approach to engage each of the Kings that attend. We bring various community leaders to facilitate workshops to encourage and uplift the voices of the youth. Also, we work to increase the number of colleges and careers represented at our signature College and Career Fair. One of the newest additions is the Parent Workshop. This allows parents to be engaged and invested in the symposium alongside their King.”
Additionally, a workshop on interpersonal communication will be offered to the professional men in attendance. “The fostering of new relationships, exposure to new opportunities and ability to learn from these youth are the reasons why we continue to put this event on annually,” said Scruggs.
When Mia Cobb moved to Indianapolis from Michigan with her two sons, TraShaun and Mekhail, she sought out ways to get them involved and engaged. They attended the first Kings Feast and have been consistent participants in the program ever since.
“It really benefited them,” said Cobb. “As they got older they started to do volunteering in the community and doing workshops.” Cobb added that the Bloom Project has essentially become a part of her family, and she’s noticed her sons becoming more mature as a result of their involvement.
“Being a single parent and raising sons, it’s only so much you can do. As women, mothers and single parents we try to provide and make sure they have the basics … them being exposed to certain things we may not have the connections to expose them to, and then for them to see successful men who came from the same place they’re at now is just an awesome thing,” she said. “It’s motivation for all the boys. They need to see things in real life besides what’s on TV and the internet … with all the crime and stuff going on, it’s needed. Especially here … it’s needed.”
Mekhail Cobb, the eldest of Mia’s sons, said Kings Feast helped him to come out of his shell and has had a profound impact on his thoughts about the future. “I already knew who I was, but it just opened me up to more opportunities,” he said. The 18-year-old high school senior plans to pursue a degree in computer science and compete professionally in track and field.
“I don’t know where I’d be without the program,” he said. “It’s showed me so much.”