HomeYoung Social Impact HeroesWhy and How Winfield Hopkins V of ‘Next One Up’ Is Helping...

Why and How Winfield Hopkins V of ‘Next One Up’ Is Helping To Change Our World

I believe the world is ever changing and adapting. We must evolve in order to grow. Sometimes when I think of the next evolution, I immediately think of Will Smith’s film “I, Robot,” but I don’t think it’s that deep (hopefully). Technology will grow, as we have seen, at such a rapid pace already. Yes, we are seeing children attached to their technology and apps like TikTok. However, on the other hand there are kids being active: learning dance routines, cooking recipes, coding and creation, business/entrepreneurship, crafting/DIY. Not even to promote social media, but just as an example of perception. I think people are learning to find themselves in the midst of our COVID-19-induced isolation on top of the true isolation that social media has already caused for many.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Winfield Hopkins V.

Winfield Hopkins V was born and raised in the inner city of Baltimore, Maryland. He was raised by his mother, who was a young woman who worked long hours for low pay in order to support her household. As a young student from a neighborhood offering few opportunities, Hopkins was recommended to become a participant in a local nonprofit program called Next One Up). His years in the Next One Up program were eye-opening and transformative. During this time, while also a student-athlete at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, he spent any free time volunteering with other nonprofits, coaching at local leagues, and competing in lacrosse camps.

Throughout his college years, he gave back to Next One Up as a volunteer, mentor, and a coach for the guys in the program from 2015–2018. The first college student in his family, Hopkins graduated from Goucher College in 2018 with his bachelor’s degree in Business Management. After college, he returned to Next One Up, the organization that had such a major impact on his life. He now serves the nonprofit as the program/admissions director..

Currently, Hopkins is working on expanding his entrepreneurial efforts by diving into the realms of photography and business consultation. He uses his background, knowledge and experience to not only commit to his business growth but also allow others to learn and grow with him.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I was born in Baltimore’s inner city in 1996. As I look back, growing up was definitely a rough experience, but as a child I didn’t know any different. I grew up with my two little sisters, my mom who worked security, and a stepfather who was a “hustler” most of my life.

We lived in a few different inner city neighborhoods such as “Sandtown” (Mckean & Fulton), “DDH” aka “Down the (Da) Hill” (Monument & Glover), and Irvington (Fredrick & Collins). If you know these neighborhoods, it’s hard to argue whether nature or nurture plays a role when the environment has remained an atrocity over multiple decades.

Again, I grew up in some very impoverished neighborhoods that honestly felt like home to me. We played football and baseball in the streets. We went to the park with our dog. We went to the grocery store and corner stores. We went to the barbershops to get a clean cut, and the church in our neighborhood, just like regular people. Still, I couldn’t help being aware of my surroundings.

Monument Street is where I first remember the 12 o’clock biker boys started. Unintentionally, this also focused attention to what was already going on. (Not to mention how prevalent “The Wire” was.) This unforeseen attention forced on gang activities, police corruption among plainclothes officers (aka “knockers”), and resources being stripped away. Eventually I couldn’t stop overlooking foreclosure notes, business shutdowns, yellow tape across blocked off streets, and neighborhoods decaying because of the lack of support. I grew up oblivious until everything clearly smacked me in the face like a wake up call.

With that being said, there were good and bad times. I just thank God for where I am today, knowing something was with me to get this far. A few days ago a good man/father that I knew from William Paca Elementary lost his life, just before I started writing this. Rest easy Antonio Hall, for I know these are reasons why Baltimore must be heard.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book that comes to mind immediately is “The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America” by D. Watkins. His books opened my eyes to so many possibilities. Here is a person who grew up in my neighborhood, then blossomed into an author who knew how to put the struggle in such a “beautiful” and comprehensible way. He also showed me that the only way others will understand what we go through is to talk about it.

I also think back to the first organization that I joined, called Boyz to Men. When I went to William Paca Elementary, a man named Mr. Lewis brought/forced me into his program just to get me on the right path. He was also the basketball coach at the time. Although I played basketball for his elementary school team, I don’t remember going to tryouts or a single day of practice. All I remember is one game where I got a steal for this kid that was dribbling down the court. Once I stole the ball, I awkwardly sprinted up the court to shoot the ball into the BASKET. I felt like Kobe till I shot the ball. It was more like a Shaq free throw from the three-point line. When I shot the ball it flew way over the backboard and hit the wall behind it. With so much shame, I just walked over and sat on the bench.

The next day in Boyz to Men, there was not one guy who shamed me or even brought up the shot that gave me so much shame. “That’s not what men do. We don’t tear each other down, we build each other up,” I remember hearing all too often. That was what that program embodied for the next year or so that I was part of it.

I say all this to say, no matter how “Beastly” that east side may be, we always found love around.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Right now, I am helping lead social impact nonprofit Next One Up in my role as program director. I work with student athletes from the inner city of Baltimore to guide them in growing academically, spiritually, socially and more. Founder/CEO Matt Hanna and all of my mentors at Next One Up are helping me build my ideas of launching an organization of my own to create social change.

I am also developing plans for my own venture called Win More. My goal is to bring a positive economic shift to the inner city neighborhoods in Baltimore. I intend to do this not only by providing operational businesses, but by educating and giving back my time and resources to these communities in which I am from. Ideally, this could motivate others to do the same for their neighborhoods in other cities.

I believe that our lack of financial intelligence in the inner city has a high correlation with Baltimore’s most detrimental issues such as crime, substance abuse, poor mental health, and even our environmental impact. I intend to create the desire and comfortability with being an entrepreneur. I would like to work with young adults, highschoolers specifically, to help them find their entrepreneurial calling. We have artists, musicians, dancers, educators, future leaders, health specialists, debaters. We have chefs that need kitchens, and speakers who need podiums and platforms to just go. This is my idea in the grand scheme of it.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

When I was growing up, for good or bad, my stepdad was a “hustler.” Some may say unfortunately, but in my mind, fortunately he showed me everything that he was doing. Anytime that I was around to see it, I got a glimpse. He figured that if I saw it all, the good and the bad, then I would learn that the bad outweighs the good in this situation. Easy examples were seeing the sacrifice of it all when Christmas was good, but then the winters were extremely cold when he was locked away.

What I have grown to learn is that if someone was to teach him how to apply his “hustle,” or better yet, time, energy and resources into something that was legal, then he would probably be in a much more financially promising situation then he is now. The fear/disgust of going without motivates me to provide stability.

There was a time when I was 12 years old where he had me and my uncle sell water on 29th Street around the Remington neighborhood. I remember splitting profits with my uncle and we left with about $250 each at the end of the week. I quit that job because it was too hot outside. (Smacks face emoji.) Somebody should’ve told me to just drink one of the bottles of water.

After that fail, he had us washing trucks and cars all over Greater Baltimore (from West Baltimore, to Reisterstown, to Owings Mills). He kept us busy until I quit that job. I was misinterpreting what hard work looks like and the results that followed.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I don’t have too many overly dramatic stories. I’m usually a chill guy that prefers chiller environments, but I have had a lot of awkward encounters with strangers. I’m still new in this entrepreneurial world so, knock on wood, I hope to keep things going steady.

One time though, I saw this talented older black gentleman outside playing his instruments for a little while. So, at some point while he was playing his instruments and singing, I went over and started to record him with my camera. Immediately he stopped and looked up. As if something just snapped, he started going into a rage cursing me out.

I was so shocked that all I could do was apologize and walk away. For a second, I was upset, but then I had to consider some things. One, I don’t even like being on camera too much, so I understand him if he does not want to be seen. Also, I think one of the most beautiful parts about art is that so much of it has not even been discovered. It’s like having gems in a secret location. With that being said, sometimes it’s meant to be like that. You have to respect art for what it is and where it wants to be.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, the school systems are going through a rut, especially Baltimore’s public school system. Because of this, my mother decided to take my little sister out of school to be homeschooled for the year. This has been a big challenge for the family, but we have all stepped up. Fortunately for her, my uncle and I have a little teaching experience so this gives us time to expose her to all of the knowledge and insight that we have gained. She gets to learn math and entrepreneurship from me in live sessions. An example is that I am a photographer. She can assist me in so many ways with BTS (Behind the Scenes ) shots and videos while also seeing how impactful photography is for so many other people. Maybe not the most glamorous entrepreneurial act, but definitely a valuable one.

We get to see beautiful family dynamics, mommy-and-me shots, Father’s Day shoots, maternity shoots, engagements, athletic events and more. I have the opportunity to capture and save some of the most captivating moments that we have as people, while allowing others to share in this experience with me. I never saw myself going into photography and maybe she has never seen it for herself either. We are just opening up the realm of possibilities.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I simply believe that this depends on your goals. When my nephew is happier to see me than the last time he visited, that’s part of the difference for me. He will know love and compassion from a good support system. Something most people don’t have. For some people, making a difference is on a larger scale, as it should be. When you go back to your old school, or community, or basketball court, library, anything, and someone is doing something positive because of your influence; that is making a difference.

A few years ago, I did this experiment where we had to choose the order of importance with various professions. Doctor, mother, janitor, chef, CEO, etc. Once it was all said and done, everyone’s order was different. This just showed how valuable each was depending on who you asked. For the animation fans like myself, nobody expects Spiderman to be Superman. Do what you do best and make a difference by contributing to our society with your unique experience and passion.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t fake it till you make it. Make it as yourself so others can do the same.
  2. If it was too easy, most would not trust it anyway. Have faith in your abilities and the effort that got you to this point.
  3. Preparation is key! Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. Look back to #2. Life doesn’t get easier — you get better through preparation.
  4. The way you look is a representation of how you feel. Embrace how you feel by dressing the way you want to look. We aren’t above prejudices … Don’t worry about that.
  5. Help the Next One Up. Easy steal, right? But honestly …

What are the values that drive your work?

Effort — A unit is only as strong as the weakest link. I refuse to be the weakest link or even close.

Love — I love what I do, so I allow myself to feel the emotions.

Health — I’d rather teach people how to live while I am alive and well, rather than while I am dying. You have to nourish both the body and the soul.

Family — I believe that building the family structure is at the foremost importance of our survival.

Sacrifice — Nothing can be achieved without sacrifice. Time, energy, mental, and sacrificing the physical if needed.

Courage — Nobody said you had to be the strongest — just the opposite of fearful. We can’t afford too many timid steps on the road to success.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centered in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

I try to wake up every day and remember that today is a different day than yesterday was. I often wake up and just say thank you. As if I get on the phone with God, say “thank you” and hang up. Just as a way to stay pure to myself. Not begging or allowing in questions and confusion. Just trusting that I am in good hands.

I trust that I am giving my all, so I try not to beat myself down more with doubt. My goals are my goals without affirmations from anyone (although support is always much appreciated and often needed). This allows me to accept that I love what I do. I love my city. I love my people and our potential. I love the ability to make a dream come true in America, even if it’s just the mindset. I would choose to wake up every day tired from taking one step closer to accomplishing my goals, than enjoying an overly rested night while no progress is being made.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

I believe the world is ever changing and adapting. We must evolve in order to grow. Sometimes when I think of the next evolution, I immediately think of Will Smith’s film “I, Robot,” but I don’t think it’s that deep (hopefully). Technology will grow, as we have seen, at such a rapid pace already. Yes, we are seeing children attached to their technology and apps like TikTok. However, on the other hand there are kids being active: learning dance routines, cooking recipes, coding and creation, business/entrepreneurship, crafting/DIY. Not even to promote social media, but just as an example of perception. I think people are learning to find themselves in the midst of our COVID-19-induced isolation on top of the true isolation that social media has already caused for many.

That’s all to say I see a world where entrepreneurship is not just rich business schemes or laziness that’s overcompensated with technological support. I see a world where we work together in environments that are positive and promote the best parts of us.

Innovators will come in to solve issues like food deserts with community gardens. They will deal with issues like pollution with creative strategies to reduce these toxic fumes. Solutions will be implemented to make sure that inner city neighborhoods do not produce PTSD at rates of soldiers at war, and that schools that don’t feel like juvenile detention centers. We will do this by embracing each other’s abilities and efforts.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

I think after learning and assessing my resources, I would then figure out the most effective ways to distribute and make use of these resources. I would first lose the limitless idea and budget/cap off these resources to a certain degree. I think having too much of one thing often diminishes the value. I would rather spoon feed some and allow others to work at their capacity. I am not assuming that all we need is resources and everything will be okay.

A quick example: if we had unlimited food resources to make sure that everyone eats, we’d soon have to worry about overeating and health issues. Even down to pollution and waste management. Someone would have to deal with that.

I would start with buying land. Hire Baltimoreans to build on/repair this land. Hire other Baltimoreans to maintain and function on this land by using skills that are not foregin to us, just focusing on repetition or reinforcement. I would implement older strategies for things like gardening, cooking, cleaning, building and designing. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I truly believe the lack of resources along with improper management are the biggest reason why Baltimore is not seeming to have an upward trajectory.

Those who strive to become educated often do not have immediate funds or resources to provide back to our people. Those who have worked and acquired assets often lack knowledge because they act on experience. Put the two together, then we grow.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I would like to see a major improvement in our educational system and how our educators are treated. I say this without specific blame, but acknowledging that a group effort is the only way we can do this. Teachers should be valued in a way that can be reflected in their work.

But also, being the adults in the room, we must handle our adult affairs with other adults. Meaning children should not have to suffer for the lack of support that our educators are receiving. We saw so many teacher walkouts and protests and I’m sure some, if not most, are for good reason. Administrators and government officials must put in more efforts when supporting our educators. This is the only way they can give their all.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

If we do not have a positive, functioning society, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for more great people to expose themselves and make a difference in the world. Think about your favorite relative or best friend. Your little puppy or your favorite pet, whether it’s cuddly or not. Nobody would want to grow up in an environment that is not positively impacting their growth. Do right for your people, and you won’t understand why doing the opposite is even an option. And don’t be too hard on yourself, just do it.

Plus, for anybody who is fighting “the good fight,” we know it is not easy. We need HELP to do so. Therefore, let’s continue to make the world a better place so that more great people can help us.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would choose to have lunch with either Kevin Hart or King Los. There are other people I could and want to name, but these are my favorite options. I think in terms of having a good conversation, somebody who still has reach and influence in the community is most important to me.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Website: https://nextoneup.org/

Linkedin: Winfield Hopkins V

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: @NextOneUpOrg

Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Winfield Hopkins V of ‘Next One Up’ Is Helping To Change… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.