Elon Law alumnus mentors teens at a ‘Crossroads’

A nonprofit founded by Gerard Truesdale L’Dec.’17 offers programs and resources that assist high school students in Greensboro who are inspired to pursue college and career goals.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2021 Elon Law News Bulletin.

An Elon Law graduate has inspired dozens of high school students over the past decade to pursue a college education through free workshops and professional development programs hosted by his own nonprofit agency.

Crossroads: Pathways to Success, co-founded more than a decade ago by Gerard Truesdale L’ Dec.’17, also helps young men identify potential career paths. The organization sponsors field trips to local colleges, classes on etiquette, community service projects, and interview preparation courses.

“Crossroads has opened up eyes to seeing more about what they can do with their lives,” Truesdale said. “Students learn to how they can use their strengths to excel in school, or college, or whatever they choose to do after high school.”

Truesdale and childhood friend Arturo Mckie established Crossroads in 2009 while Truesdale was enrolled in graduate studies at North Carolina Central University. Students attend twice-monthly Saturday workshops hosted by the nonprofit inside Providence Baptist Church in Greensboro.

Truesdale said he’s proud of the 100% college acceptance rate for those inspired to pursue a college degree because of Crossroads.

Steven Thomas attended Crossroads in 2011 when he was a student at Dudley High School in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Greensboro.

“It’s important to have a guy that looks like you and is close to your age, and to see him doing certain things,” Thomas said. “Sometimes, with your parents, things get really redundant. Getting advice from a person with a different point of view is important. Some kids really need that.”

Other participants also credit Truesdale for positively impacting young lives.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have mentors, or they don’t get the kind of stuff we get to do for free,” said K.J. Zellous, a Crossroads participant and student at Grimsley High School. “It’s good to have someone to talk to and also have other young people your age to get their opinions. I feel like my voice is heard.”

Truesdale balances his role at Crossroads with his work in cybersecurity at Cockerham & Associates in North Carolina, and his legal position with the Alabama-based Morton Law Firm. The Greensboro native –Truesdale graduated from Grimsley High School before attending Morehouse College for undergraduate studies – said he finds fulfillment in working in information technology while practicing law in criminal defense, and family and juvenile law.

Truesdale didn’t always see himself as a lawyer. Advice and guidance from attorneys he got to know helped Truesdale better appreciate the benefits a law degree would afford Crossroads. “While I was in law school, I had a couple of Saturday work- shops that focused on juvenile justice,” he said. “I realized that being an attorney…opened up so many doors in terms of my interests and what I knew what I could do with my career, from reform of the juvenile criminal system to helping out guys in Alabama who don’t have a positive male figure in their lives.”

Truesdale said businesses have opened their doors to allow tours of their facilities, sponsors have hosted lunches for students, and word of mouth has grown participation.

“The students receive a very well-rounded experience that includes breaking bread together, and there’s even a recreation component,” said John Rich, director of advancement at Crossroads. “The results speak very well of the program. Crossroads graduates are college-ready, and well-rounded young men, most of whom will become leaders in various occupations and undertakings.”

Crossroads is now looking to develop new opportunities and programs, possibly within the Guilford County Schools system via a life skills program for middle and high schools. Those who know Truesdale say he’s set for success.

“If I were recruiting a leader for any organization, I would seek five things: absolute integrity, energy and work ethic, smarts, good people skills, and a sense of life and professional purpose,” Rich said. “That’s Gerard. He ticks all the boxes. He’s a good teacher, and an even better role model.”