Who Are We?

The Sankofa Project was established after a conversation between the founder and her sons. They recognized the intrinsic value of a program that not only provides the necessary support, resources, and guidance so many of our youth and their families need, but also one that empowers them to succeed in every area of their life. Research shows that this type of program produces significant improvement in classroom performance, social development, attendance and delinquency, teen pregnancy, and unemployment for minority youth.

The foundation of The Sankofa Project is based on the meaning of the word “Sankofa”, which is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The literal translation of the word is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” We believe it is on the strength of our ancestors that we have achieved success in our lives, so it is our obligation to provide the same level of love, guidance, care, and support to those that come after us. This life does not provide the luxury of being able to achieve anything in a vacuum, and it is through the village that we move forward. Our village consists of strong, educated, caring individuals who are committed to the principles of our organization.

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“It is time for us to move beyond what is easy to achieve or what makes us comfortable and begin to ‘get uncomfortable’ so that we can make a positive, long lasting impact on our families, our communities and society.”
Author unknown
Who Do we Serve

Who Do We Serve?

The Sankofa Project serves African American youth, ages 12-18, who live in the Columbus metropolitan area. Each participant is selected through an application process, and requires the commitment of not only the youth, but their parent(s). Families are an integral part of our village and support the work we do through positive participation, engagement, modelling, and reinforcement. We are committed to serving the entire family and to working together to enable the youth to succeed.

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“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the star to change the world.”
Harriet Tubman

The Sankofa Project utilizes strong leaders to develop strong leaders.
We believe in the principles set forth in Bennis & Goldsmith’s text
“Learning to Lead”, which states:

“Leaders are willing to be lifelong learners, and they continually apply themselves to mastering the six essential competencies of leadership.”

  • Leaders understand the context of their history, their current environment, and their values and goals.
  • Leaders know themselves through reflection, self-observation, and continued learning.
  • Leaders are skilled in creating a vision for the future that attracts and includes others.
  • Leaders communicate with meaning to inspire others to make passionate commitments.
  • Leaders are committed to maintaining trust through empathy, constancy, and integrity.
  • Leaders are skilled in translating intentions into reality through committed action.

“The ability to inspire and empower other people is characteristic of leaders who make a significant difference in our lives.” They do so in an environment where

  • People feel significant
  • Learning and competence are rewarded
  • Everyone feels they are part of a community
  • Work is exciting
  • Quality is valued
  • Dedication produces results

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The Sankofa Project Mission

Our Mission

The Sankofa Project seeks to be a change agent in the lives of young people to enable them to realize their potential and attain success by providing a caring and supporting environment and emphasizing the important elements of mentoring, education, athletics, and positive self-regard. Our primary goal is to make a significant difference in the lives of youth through effective and caring service.

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Find the place inside of you where nothing is impossible!
Deepak Chopra

Our Purpose

  • To acknowledge, equip, and empower, African American youth through mentorship, leadership, and professional development.
  • To be the exclusive  organization for both African American youth and their families while assuring support during their involvement in our program.
  • To provide mentorship guidance from current professionals invested in the futures of middle and high school African American students while providing encouragement as they explore beneficial life opportunities.

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We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Our Vision

The Sankofa Project strives to provide services that reflect the indisputable worth of each individual, regardless of where they may find themselves in life. Our organization endeavours to promote the dignity, uniqueness, intrinsic value and potential of our participants at whatever stage of life they encounter our services.

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History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.
~ James Baldwin

Our Values


We base our working relationships upon mutual trust, respect and unyielding integrity. We recognize that our reputation is grounded in the authentic and ethical treatment of our youth and each other.


We value results that are achieved through working together. We approach our work as a team focused on creating an encouraging work environment that produces excellent quality results for our youth.


We value the individual differences and contributions of each member of our organization. We embrace progressiveness, creativity, and the ability to adapt to change. We believe each person is an essential and important resource.

Commitment to Excellence

We set exceptional standards for quality in our work and believe it is essential to hold ourselves accountable for everything we do. We strive for continuous improvement and seek to use innovation and cutting-edge technology to work effectively among ourselves and with our youth.

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Every morning when you wake up, tell yourself “today I will be extraordinary”…then get up and be that!

Our Services

Mentoring Program

“Building Kings and Queens” Mentoring Program

The Sankofa Project works with the finest, most caring and professional mentors to engage in positive and empowering relationships with youth. Our mentors work with their mentees to help them develop and grow so they reach their full potential. Our mentors provide academic assistance, life skills training, social skills training, and exposure to the community in significant ways. Our mentors help our youth enhance their relational skills, self-esteem strategies, and personal capabilities so they are able to tackle the hurdles they may encounter in life successfully.

Summer Empowerment Program

Summer Empowerment Program
The Sankofa Project’s Summer Empowerment Program consists of a 10-week training program that exposes its participants to various elements of career exploration, higher education and technical training, cultural excursions, social skills development, and leadership opportunities that will empower them to make informed decisions about their future. The program is 4 days a week, Monday – Thursday, and each day offers a different opportunity for them engage with the world around them.

After School Enrichment Program

After School Enrichment Program
The Sankofa Project’s After School Enrichment Program consists of positive peer support, educational tutoring, and counseling groups to provide holistic and engaging care for those enrolled in the program. Our students will participate in the program 4 days per week, and will develop those tools they need to succeed academically, socially, and personally to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Athletic Program

“Young Warriors” Athletic Program
The Sankofa Project’s “Young Warriors” Athletic Program was established to encourage and enable young people to engage with a team to develop those skills that are learned through athletics. Skills such as teamwork, positive decision making, timeliness, hard work, and dedication, which are necessary to help a person gain and maintain success. We work with seasoned coaches that believe in emphasizing hard work and commitment, and who are dedicated to building strong student athletes.

Counseling Services

Counseling Services
We at The Sankofa Project recognize the importance of sound mental and physical health, and have partnered with several counseling agencies who can provide mental health counseling services for those enrolled in the program who find themselves in need of support. We believe that this added support is necessary in achieving our goal of enabling our youth to maintain success and will make a significant difference in their lives.








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Executive Team


Dr. Denise Y. Lewis

Dr. Denise Lewis is a Licensed Professional Counselor who holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio Dominican College, an M.A. in Counseling Ministry from Methodist Theological School in Ohio, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Ohio University. Dr. Lewis is a Lecturer at Ohio University, as well as a counselor at a charter school in Columbus, Ohio. She has dedicated her career to educating and working with youth and families as a counselor and advocate, and has worked with youth involved with the juvenile justice system, providing extensive individual, family and group counseling to deal with various concerns.  She has developed curriculum for group counseling sessions, including AOD, anger management, life skills, thinking errors, teen domestic violence, social awareness, loss and grief, and sexual health.

Dr. Lewis’ honors include receiving the Outstanding Faculty Award from Ohio Christian University, and the George C. Hill Counseling Award from Ohio University. Dr. Lewis is a member of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society and Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International.  She is a past member of the Executive Board of the Ohio Counseling Association, past-President of the Central Ohio Counseling Association, past-President of the Ohio Association of Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling, and past-President of the Ohio Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development.  Her professional affiliations also include membership in the American Counseling Association and the Ohio Counseling Association.

Dr. Lewis is married to Rev. Edward Lewis, and together they have four children and three grandchildren. Dr. Lewis, along with her sons Thomas and Benjamin, founded The Sankofa Project and is committed to empowering youth and their families to achieve success through utilizing all the tools available to them.




Rev. Edward K. Lewis, Sr.

Rev. Edward Lewis is a Hospice Chaplain who holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Ohio Dominican University, an M.Div. from Princeton Theological School, and a Th.M. from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. Rev. Lewis has dedicated his career to the ministry and to working with those in the community on social justice issues. He continues to develop in both areas and brings a great deal of commitment to The Sankofa Project.



Executive Director of Business Development/Community Outreach

Thomas B. W. Paige

Thomas is a graduate of Pickerington HS North, and a graduate of Bluffton University, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Sports Management. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Education at The Ohio State University. Thomas is a teacher at a charter school in Columbus, Ohio, and he has dedicated his time and energy to working to enrich the lives of others. Thomas has extensive management and sales experience, serving as an Assistant Manager with a popular store chain for over 3 years, and a Business Development Manager for over 5 years with a marketing company. He has volunteered his time to help develop youth as a football coach and is a significant addition to the team. Thomas is one of the founders of The Sankofa Project, and he works diligently to ensure the mission, vision, and purpose of the organization is fulfilled!

Thomas is married to Mary Paige, and they have two beautiful daughters. He is a wonderful husband, an amazing father, and a competent leader! He looks forward to serving our youth, their families, and our community!



Executive Director of Programming & Operations

Benjamin F. White, III

Ben is a graduate of Gahanna Lincoln High School, and a graduate of Arcadia University, where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. In May of 2018, Ben will receive his Master’s degree in Counselor Education from Ohio University. He currently serves as a counseling intern at a charter school in Columbus, Ohio, and he has dedicated his time and energy to working to enrich the lives of young people. Ben has gained a majority of his professional experience working with youth as a mentor, leader, camp counselor, and basketball coach, and is a welcome addition to the team. Ben is one of the founders of The Sankofa Project, and he works diligently to ensure the mission, vision, and purpose of the organization is fulfilled!

Ben has received numerous academic awards. He was inducted into The National Society of Leadership and Success at Arcadia University in 2015, and Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International in 2017, where he currently serves as their Treasurer. Additionally, he serves as the Youth Department Chair for the Columbus NAACP.

Ben is a dedicated leader who inspires so many through his wonderful and infectious personality. He is excited about working with youth to enable them to achieve their goals!


Email: BenWhite@SankofaProject.net

Executive Director of Communications & Marketing

Nicolle Cordell-Evans

Nicolle is a consummate professional with over 20 years experience in marketing, event planning and advertising communications in the corporate, advertising agency, healthcare and non-profit sectors. She is a multi-tasker with a strong visual sense and excellent attention-to-detail. Nicolle is able to plan strategically and to translate marketing ideas and design concepts across all organization levels. Her skill at seeing the big picture and implementing the details to get there are a significant asset to The Sankofa Project.

Nicolle is married to Sheila Evans, and she has a daughter who is currently one of the Assistant Coaches of the women’s basketball team at Columbia University in New York City. She looks forward to using her significant skills to contribute to the work The Sankofa Project is doing.



Executive Board Chairperson

Gwendolyn Walker

Gwendolyn Walker was called to be a pastor in 1991 and has had the honor and the privilege of being the Pastor of the Light of the World Worship & Celebration Center since that time. She is also a well-known speechwriter in Central Ohio has had the honor and privilege of writing speeches for key public officials in Columbus. She enjoys her current position at the Brookwood Academy Charter School in the Office of Human Resources and the Office of Confidential Records where she works with a gifted group of educators serving families of children with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and emotional and behavioral challenges.

She currently serves as the Chairwoman of the Sankofa Project, as a member of the Boards of Directors for the Christian Women’s Leadership Alliance of Central, Sister Friends Ministry, and Breath of Life Ministries. She is a former employee of the State of Ohio where she served in the capacity of Budget Officer for the Department of Development and former employee of Nationwide Insurance, holding positions as a Securities Specialist in Investments, Management Reports Analyst, Senior Human Resources Representative, and Trainer-facilitator for the 4,000 Life Company employees.

She is a proud graduate of Ohio Dominican University and is a graduate student at Franklin University. She will receive a certification as an Instructional Designer in April, 2018 followed by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design Technology in December, 2018. She is excited to work with The Sankofa Project to ensure its mission, vision, and values are met and our children and their families are served.




We look forward to partnering with you on your journey

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Welcome to The Sankofa Project! We seek to be a change agent in the lives of young people to enable them to realize their greatest potential. Our primary goal is to make a difference in the lives of our youth through effective and caring service. We appreciate you taking the time to visit us, and we look forward to working with you.


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