Joe Bates (’10 with a B.S. in Individualized Studies) had never seen snow before coming to Toledo for college. Northwest Ohio was a pretty dramatic climate change for the young man from Oakland, California. But Bates was excited for the difference. He was here to play football for The University of Toledo as a defensive back.
Bates had been playing football since he was 10 years old. As a senior at Skyline High School, he was named a first-team all-city pick, a second-team all-metro choice by the San Francisco Chronicle and rated eleventh in the Contra Costa Times “Cream of the Crop” listing. He got a lot of looks from universities across the nation and signed with Oregon out of high school on a full athletic scholarship. Unfortunately Bates couldn’t redeem the scholarship because he was behind in math credits. He attended a local community college, completed the needed math courses and then started looking at universities again.
By the time he was in a position to be recruited again, his recruiter at Oregon, Greg Lupfer, had moved to a coaching position at The University of Toledo. When Lupfer heard that Bates was available again, he called and asked if Bates would be interested in coming to Toledo.
“I admit I didn’t know where Toledo was,” said Bates. “I heard of the school and had seen the Rockets play on TV, but I didn’t know exactly which state it was in.” Next thing Bates knew, he was standing in the Detroit airport ready for his first trip to The University of Toledo.
UT ended up being a great place for him. He had several successful years on the football field. Academically, he was interested in criminal justice. He got his degree in individual studies focusing on courses surrounding this area of study.
Following graduation he moved back to California. He wanted to become a police officer in Berkeley so he applied to the University of California to go through the process. Bates passed the physical, written, oral and panel examinations only to be put on the wait list. After five months without a job, he got a phone call from a friend back in the Midwest who shared information about a position at the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center, a correctional facility located in downtown Toledo. It was an opportunity to take his first steps into the criminal justice field, so he moved back to the home of his alma mater.
Bates became very attached to working with young individuals who were troubled during his years at the correctional facility.
“I felt I really got a response from the youngsters at the Youth Treatment Program,” he said. “I thought ‘I could do this for the youth in my own community.’”
So after two years, Bates moved back to California and took a position with a drug and alcohol treatment facility. His potential was noticed and he was quickly promoted to supervisor. Although he was doing successfully at his position, Bates didn’t feel like it was the perfect fit for him. When he received a call from Youth Uprising, a non-profit organization he had great interest in but previously had no available opportunities, he transitioned to working for them. Bates became a career coach working with 14 to 19-year-olds.
Youth Uprising is a multi-service community transformation hub, located in the heart of East Oakland. Its mission is “to transform East Oakland into a healthy and economically robust community by developing the leadership of youth and young adults and improving the systems that impact them.”
Many of the young people they work with at Youth Uprising have been defined as hard to serve or are engaged or at risk of being engaged in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.
“It is much more hands on,” Bates said. “It was more like working with the kids at the correctional facility in Toledo, except these youngsters aren’t incarcerated.”
Keeping with his previous record of work success, Bates was promoted quickly. He recently became a senior career coach and now works with 18 to 24 year-olds getting them ready for a career. He mentors and offers training on professionalism, time management, interview skills, resume building and career counseling.
“We help them get jobs,” said Bates. “A lot of these kids grew up in a single family household. They haven’t had the chance to learn about real-life situations. My job is to prepare them for these situations.”
A current case weighing heavily on Bates’ mind is a tragedy with two brothers with whom he was working. The young men were both killed in their neighborhood, weeks apart from each other. Bates met their mother, who lost both of her sons within a couple of weeks, at their funerals.
A positive case that put a smile in his voice was the story of helping a 19-year-old man complete his GED. The young man wasn’t motivated to finish school because he didn’t believe he could do it.
“He did all right with English but really struggled with math,” shared Bates. “We spent a full two weeks studying. He only had one more chance to take the GED before the standards changed and he would have to start all over.”
The young man passed his GED and is now enrolling in community college.
“It takes a strong soul to work here, but it is a good deal when we are able to help someone. It is very rewarding,” Bates said.
Bates gets to wear many hats at Youth Uprising and is gaining a lot of different types of experiences. He does feel it is a stepping stone type of job and has future plans to put his experiences to good use. His goals are divided between becoming a community college academic counselor and his strong passion for coaching football at the high school level. His experiences at The University of Toledo helped peak an interest in both fields.
Working with his counselors at UT, he thought, “Wow, I would love to do this.” Bates loves the idea of helping young people get where they need to be academically.
“I want to be in an environment where kids want to help themselves, be in college and move forward,” he shared.
He also learned a lot about coaching football from Tim Beckman, the head coach when he was a Rocket.
“When Beckman came in we were at a bad point,” said Bates. “We beat Michigan that year but our record wasn’t that good. Beckman broke us all of the way down and started us at the bottom in terms of technique and fundamentals. He really improved the chemistry.”
Bates works with the football program at his alma mater, Skyline High School.
“They are at a down point right now. But I feel like the tools I learned from The University of Toledo will help with that situation,” he said.
Bates plans on staying involved with UT through alumni events, joining the Varsity T Club and through athletics. He recently attended an alumni event in his hometown that he really enjoyed and looks forward to others. He met an alumnus in his area that also really loves the UT football program and they plan on watching a few games next season. There is another alumni event coming up to watch the San Francisco Giants that is already on his calendar. He says he gets a feeling of association by continuing to stay involved.
“I loved the architecture there,” Bates said. “I remember flying family out and driving them past University Hall at night just to see it lit up. I enjoyed that so much, it was a great experience for me.”
Bates also has athletic connections out in California that he hopes might benefit UT in the future. He has a nephew that will be ranked in the nation this coming season. Bates hopes to draw people into UT. He also has a son on the way and Bates shared that if his son decides to go out of state for college, he will be going to The University of Toledo.
“It is a Division 1 university athletically, which is the highest you can get,” said Bates. “That is something that I can brag about here in California through my network of athletes and coaches. I am proud to be a Rocket.”