Tracy Gragston Pays It Forward
Dreams live on. Tracy Gragston Jr. is a 25 year-old dreamer. His parents, Debra and Tracy Sr., had dreams for all four of their children. Tracy's parents lead by example. For instance, his mother returned to school to complete a degree. Tracy, the oldest child, is a 1999 graduate of Walnut Hills High School. He went on to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Eastern Kentucky University. He is currently a Juvenile Corrections Officer for Hamilton County Juvenile Court and dreams of one day practicing law.
In 1998, Tracy was connected with a CYC mentor, Kent Wellington, a law partner with Graydon Head & Ritchey. Tracy says that he remembers the day they met like it was yesterday. There was an instant bond. They shared so many common interests. After seven years, Tracy still considers Kent his mentor and remains close to Kent and his family. They communicate weekly.
On his climb up, Tracy has reached back. He believes that mentoring is his way of giving back to the community. He currently mentors three students, fourth grader Kincaid, sixth grader Kendell, and seventh grader Carson. Kincaid and Kendell are brothers and S.P.A.R.K. participants. They look forward to Tracy's weekly visits and calls. Tracy says they're bright, funny, and full of energy. They are both honor students at John P. Parker Elementary School. Kendell dreams of being an artist, and Kincaid aspires to play professional football. Tracy and his mentees have been able to share their dreams with each other.
Tracy contends that most of the children he meets have big dreams. He believes they just need more support, direction, and guidance to keep those dreams on track. Tracy says, "As mentors, and as citizens, it's our responsibility to help kids achieve their dreams and help them become successful citizens. In that way, the dominos keep moving forward, in a positive direction, keeping the dreams alive."
The S.P.A.R.K. (Strengthening Partnerships And Resources for Kids) is an expansion of CYC's mentoring program that targets children who reside in Hamilton County between the ages of 4 to 14 with an incarcerated parent. The mentoring effort is a community partnership that brings together the CYC and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati, two nationally recognized mentoring organizations, and Talbert House, a nationally known agency providing substance abuse and mental health services to adult offenders. The S.P.A.R.K. partners work in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, Adult Parole Authority and Ohio Prisons, which helps identify and link children of incarcerated parents, and the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services, which identifies children served by the Children's Services, child support, and other assistance programs.