MARIETTA — For former Atlanta Hawks basketball player Roshown McLeod, mentoring the state’s at-risk youth is a simple matter of returning the favor that was done for him when he was a teenager.
McLeod works as a program resource coordinator for the Cobb Community Service Board, a quasi-governmental agency that focuses on mental health, developmental disabilities and/or addictive diseases, and he is a mentor at the George Hartmann Center, an intensive residential addiction treatment facility on Lawrence Street.
“I grew up in the Boys and Girls Clubs,” he said. “So people in my shoes did (what I’m doing for them) for me. And because of my appreciation, I always wanted to give back and make sure that I could share my experiences with the youth so they could have hope. My mom, my aunts and my grandma — they all did this work. So it was something that I had seen day in and day out.”
The George Hartmann Center, which opened in 1991, houses and treats 15 boys and 15 girls ages 13 to 17 for six to 12 months. The center is one of two public youth facilities that specializes in teen addiction issues and accepts teens from all over the state.
The center has 40 employees, including four substance abuse counselors and one licensed associate professional counselor. The center offers counseling, activity therapy and education. Attendees are recommended to the center from various government agencies and other treatment centers and receive education from Marietta City Schools teachers, according to Diane Green, Hartmann Center program director.
“We are an entity that serves the population that can be overlooked,” she said. “They need help. We work really hard to help our children.”
Prior to joining the center’s staff in 2013, McLeod played basketball at St. John’s University and was the first player to transfer to Duke University. He was a first-round draft pick for the Atlanta Hawks in 1998 and played with Atlanta for two and a half seasons. He went on to play for the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics. He also served as an assistant basketball coach at Indiana University and as St. Benedict’s Prep’s boys basketball coach in Newark, New Jersey.
As a mentor, McLeod teaches life skills classes, facilities group therapy and organizes recreational and team-building activates. He also coordinates field trips for the center’s teens.
“I try to be someone that they can look up to because of my background. Playing in the NBA and growing up in the inner city—I’m familiar to them.”
McLeod says the transition into the facility can be tumultuous and he helps kids become adjusted.
“It’s a roller coaster for the first two to three weeks for the kids,” he said. “They’re either coming from lock up or home. Either way it’s an extreme. At home they have a lot of freedom and here they have structure, so they get upset because they can’t’ do what they want to. When they’re in lock up they have everything planned out for them. Then they come here, where they have a little bit more freedom, and they don’t know how to use the freedom properly. I try to help them balance out what to fill that void with.”
For McLeod, the greatest part of his job is seeing his mentees leave the center to lead successful lives, such as a teenaged father.
“I absolutely love coming to work,” he said. “Most people don’t like their job. I love my job. One of my success stories: There was this young man and he had a baby while he was here. His son was born a couple days after my son was born. He and I used to sit and talk every day about becoming a father because he was a 17-year-old having a baby and he was scared to death. He’s working now and he finished school … and is enjoying being a father. That for me is one of the stories I always remember because was able to share my experiences with him… and he was able to take in a lot of that information. I think he’s on the right path now.”