ASHTON-SANDY SPRING, Md. — Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando tells me studies have shown that one of the biggest indicators of a child's future comes from what they do each day between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Are they "decision" kids or "destination" kids?
Decision kids are children that have to decide for themselves what they'll do during those hours. Destination kids have activities or places to go already locked in for those hours.
That distinction for Jawando was literally the difference maker between life and death.
In his new book, 'My Seven Black Fathers,' Jawando writes about a childhood friend who fell into that category of "decision kids." He lost that friend to gun violence. He describes the difference-maker in his own life as having the access to Black men through his mother's job and being a kid who always had a destination.
"It was something I needed to write," said Jawando. "It's a deeply personal story about my life and the men who stepped in at critical points in the absence of my dad to help me become the man I am and literally saved my life."
Jawando grew up in Silver Spring, the child of a white mother and Nigerian-immigrant father who divorced when Will was young. He is a civil rights activist and attorney, a former Capitol Hill staffer and Obama White House political appointee.
"Dad and husband are certainly my favorite titles," said Jawando. "At the end of the day, I'm a Montgomery County kid who's trying to help other people."
I first met Jawando on ZOOM over two years ago as the pandemic forced kids to stay home for school and many weren't having their literary needs met. Jawando started an online story time on Facebook Live for kids who needed enrichment like that to keep up their skills.
It's one small example of the mentoring skills he's brought to bear over the course of his career and the kind he's encouraging others to get involved with.
The book serves as a how-to guide and a roadmap to navigating and creating successful mentor relationships.
"A call to action to be open to receive these relationships. It's a two-way street. And then to engage and enable more of these relationships," said Jawando. "The call to action is that we need more of these people. Policy, practice and personal. If you're someone who hasn't mentored, don't be scared by the word. It doesn't have to be formal."
Jawando proudly writes about his time serving Senator, candidate and then President Barack Obama. Obama was one of Jawando's "seven black fathers" and he leaned on the Chicago community organizer for guidance.
He (Obama) is really helpful. Helping navigate my role as husband and father in the context of someone who really didn't have their biological father to draw on," said Jawando. "That was something that, both by example and later personal connection and conversations we would have later in our relationship, that he was really helpful for me."
The key component to that relationship was what Jawando was able to learn in side conversations with Obama and before and after meetings, all while Obama was, you know, running the country.
"He (Obama) exemplified this idea that, you know, we didn't have eight-hour formal mentoring sessions. But he took the time within the context of our working relationship to do that and it's a perfect example of how all these relationships look different."
You can read more about Jawando's book HERE.
Reader's note: Jawando is currently running for reelection as an at-large candidate to the Montgomery County, Maryland County Council.