Nikkia Patterson watched her mother show her love for guiding children of her community for years, and she’s never forgotten it.
The 22-year veteran of the military is seeking to offer some guidance of her own to youths in the community by starting the group, “Awesome Boys and Girls,” through which she plans to mentor boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17 to teach them about finances, etiquette, making good life choices, the importance of good hygiene, public speaking and other important life skills.
“It’s to give them different viewpoints on what they can do,” Patterson said. “Learning about finances, learning how to balance a checkbook, to be smart with credit … there are some things you don’t learn in the classroom at school, and there are some times you don’t even get that at home. So it’s really just an idea to bring some of that to the kids, educate them a little bit more, and it can all grow organically from there.”
After Patterson returned home after serving, she opened a candy store in Destrehan called Katherine’s Sweet Shoppe, the name in honor of her mother, Katherine Scott Isaac. Her family continues to run Scott’s Grocery in Killona, Isaac’s business for years. Patterson credits her mother for Patterson’s own creativity and drive to accomplish positive things in her community.
“She had the only convenience store in the area and for those people who didn’t have a vehicle to get anywhere, it was accessible and she’d help supply things,” Patterson said. “She contributed to different community services and different projects … the kids were her soft spot. She saw them grow up from when they were babies and she wanted to play a positive role for them.”
Patterson has a bit of mentoring experience already. When she was stationed in Florida, she established a mentoring program there that she felt she saw strong results from.
“They really enjoyed it,” Patterson said. “It was my trial run in a sense and I got to test the process out quite a bit. Like with my mom, the kids are my soft spot. They’re our future, and if we’re not doing everything we can to help them be the best they can be, they’re in trouble and we’re all in trouble. I want to be part of that process.”
Patterson plans to split up meetings into two age groupings that would each meet once a month.
“They’re our future, and if we’re not doing everything we can to help them be the best they can be … we’re all in trouble.” — Nikkia Patterson
“Your thoughts at 12 and 13 are different than a 16 or 17 year old, so we’re going to be mindful of that,” Patterson said.
The meet-ups were originally set to begin in January, but Patterson elected to push back the start to August to coincide with the start of school again. She wanted to give the project her all, and a January start would have come just weeks after the opening of her candy store in December. Each of the age groups will meet once a month at Katherine’s Sweet Shoppe.
“I put it on pause so my time wouldn’t be split up so much. But now I’ve got a good handle on what’s going on and I’m excited to get this started,” she said.
Different meetings will focus on different skills and themes. During one, for example, a speaker involved with dentistry will visit to speak about hygiene. There’s a bit of homework, too, but the fun kind: she’s planning a reading challenge among other activities.
“We want them to have goals and have something to really get involved in,” Patterson said.
Career wise, she wants to highlight some of the different paths one can aspire to that children of that age may not be considering – much like her mother did for her, inspiring Patterson to become an entrepreneur.
“We have a lot of kids aspiring to be singers, rappers, actors, football players … but maybe they’re not considering this other career path open to them,” she said. “I’ve talked to a number of parents and they’re ready for it. I think it’s going to be a great thing.”