Mr. Jerel L. Rhodes is a man of vision, faith and commitment. These three driving forces have served to guide him as he has dedicated his life to motivating young minds to believe that there is no barrier, statistic or obstacle that can keep them from becoming who they are destined to be.
Born in October 1973 to Mr. Jimmy Lewis Rhodes and Joyce Ann Finney Rhodes, Jerel attended Roanoke City Schools where he graduated from William Fleming High School in June of 1991. After graduation, he attended Norfolk State University where he majored in Sociology and received his BA in May of 1996.
Upon graduation from Radford University, where he received his Master’s in Science degree (Education Counseling and Human Development) in 1998, Jerel began his professional career as a guidance counselor at Patrick Henry High School. More than a guidance counselor, Mr. Rhodes looked for opportunities to be a bridge builder. He developed step teams at both Patrick Henry and William Fleming using the time to teach the art of step while imparting “life lessons” on a daily basis. Many times, what started off as practice sessions ended as counseling and mentoring sessions. He believed that by starting teams at both Fleming and Patrick Henry he would be able to demonstrate that through unity a bond is created that is much more powerful than two groups functioning separately. His efforts proved to be very successful.
Jerel also co-founded S.T.E.P. (Student Transitional Educational Program) with Fletcher Nichols while at Patrick Henry. S.T.E.P. started as an intervention group for African American males “teetering” the line of being sent to an alternative education program. The success of this program has been phenominal. Nine of the original eleven students not only graduated from high school but many of them are currently enrolled in graduate school. The success of this program has led to academic credit being granted to the young men enrolled in S.T.E.P.
While at Norfolk State, Jerel envisioned returning to Roanoke and starting a multi-faceted educational organization that addresses the manychallenges and issues that impede the realization of the full potential of the Valley’s youth population. The organization, Rebounding Roanoke, is the fulfillment of that vision.
Believing that exposure is the key to maximizing one’s potential, Jerel quickly volunteered the services of Rebounding Roanoke to the Black Student Retention Project at Virginia Western Community College, upon learning that the college was attempting to address the critical educational challenges facing Black males in the absence of positive Black Male role models on college campuses. This was the begin of a relationship that birthed The Scholarly Gents Society.
The Scholarly Gents Society (TSGS) was formed in 2007 as an elite society of like-minded Black men attending the college and operating under the cardinal principles of education, family, community and perseverance. The group is committed to providing a positive and visible presence within the Greater Roanoke Valley. One of the hallmarks of TSGS is its multigenerational composition. This composition brings broad perspective, experience and insight to the table. The dynamics within their meetings are energetic with an open atmosphere wherein the members are willing to share and grow. Current events and issues are tackled with an intense determination to bring about change within the community in which they live and serve. Believing that the best way to cultivate and develop a generation of true “Cylce-Breakers” is early intervention, Mr. Rhodes set his sights on middle and high school students. Using as a motto, We Exist, Therefore We Succeed, The Renaissance Academy was founded in 2012.
The Renaissance Academy seeks to provide a network of support for middle and high school students within the Roanoke Valley. It also provides professional men within the Black community an opportunity to contribute to the success of future generations of Black male students while connecting with Rebounding Roanoke in new, positive and creative ways.
Students enrolled in the Academy undergo a rigorous curriculum designed to enrich the lives of Academy participants. These young men are currently reading and discussing texts such as Hill Harper’s “Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny,” Fonzworth Bentley’s “Advance Your Swagger: How to Use Manners, Confidence, and Style to Get Ahead,” and Kevin Powell’s “The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life.” They are also extracting from these text principles that they can incorporate into their daily lives.
The Renaissance Academy curriculum includes topics such as, Education Matters (PSAT and SAT preparation, college tours, “College Adopt a Student Program”), Character Building, Etiquette, Professionalism (communication skills, public speaking), Financial Planning (maintaining a bank account), Goal Setting (life skills, creation of a Success Plan), Decision Making, Career Exploration (interviewing skills, job shadowing), and Health and Wellness. Thirty-four young men are currently enrolled in The Renaissance Academy and they are making positive strides within our Valley through their community service efforts.
Currently, Jerel serves as the Guidance Coordinator at Forest Park Academy and is a member of Kingdom Life Ministries, International where he serves as an elder. He also serves on the director’s boards of Kimoyo, LTD and Cultural Arts for Excellence (CAFE) and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He has received recognition for his community based initiatives and service from the City of Roanoke (Distinguished Service Medallion, 2013) Alpha Kappa Alpha (Unsung Hero Award, 2001), and the City of Roanoke (Community Service Partnership, S.T.E.P., 2008).
Jerel is married to Rhonda Chambers Rhodes. She is a graduate of the Roanoke City School System, Radford University (BS) and University of Virginia (MS). Rhonda is also fully committed to the youth of Roanoke. She currently teaches first grade at Round Hill Elementary School. The couple is the proud parents of four children, Jerel II, Jadyn, Jase and Jerrah.
The visionary of Rebounding Roanoke is Mr. Jerel Rhodes. He envisioned a functioning organism designed for the youth of the Greater Roanoke Valley upon graduation from William Fleming High School in 1991. Mr Rhodes' vision finally manifested itself during the Fall of 2011. Currently Rebounding Roanoke serves as the umbrella for the following organizations: The Scholarly Gents, The Renaissance Academy, Men of Admin and The Black Educators Coalition.