Mission Possible: COSM (Church Outreach Service Mission) has been making it possible for youngsters to dream of professional success for more than 40 years.
Members of the Shelby County judiciary recently partnered with the organization to speak with children about what judges and lawyers do.
Mission Possible Executive Director Thelma Nelms, who founded the group, said the quarterly session is part of the organization’s efforts to reach out to at-risk youth.
“We have been focusing our efforts on children in the 38126 ZIP code since the beginning,” said Nelms. “Back when we were just getting started, 38126 was called the most violent community in the country — not the city, not the state, but in the country. It has come a long way, but there is still lots more to be done.”
General Sessions Court Judge Deborah Henderson coordinated the hour-long workshop with colleagues on the bench as well as a practicing attorney.
“Some of my colleagues are friends who I can just ask to do something, and they are always ready to help,” said Henderson.
“Joining us were Judge Patrick Dandridge, Environmental Court; Judge JoeDae Jenkins, Chancery Court; Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, Juvenile Court Magistrate Carlyn Addison, and attorney Bill Larsha.”
Nelms felt the session was highly productive, since young people “were exposed to the judiciary.” Children, ranging in age from 10-17, enjoyed the “distinguished visitors who fueled their imaginations,” Nelms said.
“Some of those young people expressed interest in becoming attorneys,” said Nelms. “And one little boy said he wanted to be like Attorney Bill Larsha because Attorney Larsha said he allowed God to lead him. Talking about the Lord leading him as an attorney made such an impact on that child. That was a wonderful moment.”
Nelms, herself, came from 38126.
“I am a living example that a person can give their way out of poverty,” Nelms said. “Good character and the pursuit of excellence can improve the climate in your community,” she said.
The July 12 workshop was a quarterly installment of what Nelms calls “youthinars.”
These gatherings with professionals and business owners show children, not only what opportunities are available in each profession, but youngsters also are told about the merits of creating their own opportunities through entrepreneurship.
“These wonderful judges encouraged character building through their faith, as well as career awareness,” said Nelms. “Judge Henderson, a member at Greater Middle Baptist Church, and Judge Jenkins, at Oak Grove Baptist Church, have participated in a number of activities over the years. They have inspired many.”
Guest speakers also opened a political awakening in some children, Nelms said. One 9-year-old asked judges “what can we do to stop the killing?”
Parents have called the organization’s office to say their children have insisted that they vote, and that they vote early.
Chase Aldridge, 5, presented Judge Henderson with an award of appreciation for her “continuing presence and commitment.”
“It was a pleasure hosting our children in my antebellum-style home,” said Nelms.
“It is 125 years old, just a wonderful way to talk about history. Beautiful things happen when the fire of inspiration is ignited through exposure. We hope to keep on making a difference, one child at a time.”
Mission Possible, according to the website, is a Christian-based organization founded in 1980 by a group of postal workers.
“We were founded on the belief that real Christian service should happen outside the confines of church walls,” said Nelms. “Addressing physical needs of people has as much to do with spirituality as going to church to hear a sermon. Some people have never been inside a church. Our lives must be sermons.”
(For more information, visit www.missionpossiblecosm.com.)