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The Master Mentor

Nearly 15 years ago, Armand King set out to be the person he needed as a youth.

Nearly 15 years ago, Armand King set out to be the person he needed as a youth. The prolific community leader became involved in San Diego’s illicit sex trade as a teen, then straightened out when the lifestyle lost its luster and friends began losing their lives. King detailed his experiences in his 2019 book Raised in Pimp City

“I was running a restaurant in Linda Vista and during that time, it came to my attention that the kind of the crew that I had started as a 15-year-old boy and had grown out of now as a 30-year-old man had continued to thrive—there were kids in the neighborhood I grew up in that were following in me and my friends’ footsteps,” King says. 

He invited roughly two dozen neighborhood teens and young adults to the restaurant and, surprisingly, they showed up. It was the start of something bigger, a mentoring journey where kids could look up to him for the right reasons. 

“I was jolted into this work, and it was not because it was what I wanted. I believe there was a higher calling for me,” he says. “As I reflect back on my life, I was really being molded to do this work.”

King formed the nonprofit Paving Great Futures in 2010 to provide meaningful guidance to youth in underserved areas, but took a step back from the organization in 2021 after a series of personal losses. His latest venture is called Walk With Me Impact, a youth mentoring curriculum for nonprofits, youth advocates, and parents, inspired by his experiences. The curriculum has been used across the country, in Canada, and is even being considered for Aboriginal children in Australia. 

“I started creating programs and curriculums, not knowing what a real structure of a program or a curriculum was, but my thought was and still is to this day, What would have been needed to help me not go down those toxic paths,” he says. “A lot of traditional methods have not worked and still don’t, and our kids are still dying. They’re still not being reached properly. I created stuff based on what would have worked for me and, lo and behold, it worked for hundreds of other youths.”

King’s efforts have come full circle. Just as he learned from his own mentor, Neighborhood House Association President and CEO Rudy Johnson, his former mentees are paying it forward and becoming mentors in their own right, including one man who had been emulating King since they were kids. 

“He was one of the kids who was following me when I didn’t know I was being followed as a bad kid,” King says. “As I transitioned and he came into my life, he was going through federal incarceration. I stuck with him throughout his legal journey. He was one of the first people in my program I helped him navigate through that. This young man just enrolled in San Diego State University to become a substance abuse counselor. He’s using his lived experience now to mentor other youth and has totally changed his life.” 

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