Nate West calls his son, Jaden, his lifesaver.
After graduating from Goshen College with a degree in sports management in 2010, West moved back to his hometown of Canton, Ohio. He didn’t know where to go with his life, or what to do. He was making bad choices. In his words, he “was lost.”
“I went home and continued to do dumb things, let’s just put it like that,” he said. “I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done. But it was all I knew. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d been to school but I didn’t know what the future held. I had goals and things, but I had no idea where to go.”
But when West’s future wife, Kelsey, was about to give birth to the couple’s first child in Goshen, West knew he had to be there. West arrived back in Goshen a week and a half before his son was born. He hasn’t left since.
“When Jaden was born, it was like a lightbulb went off in my head,” West said. “I wanted him to have someone he could look up to and be proud to say, ‘That’s my dad.’ At that point, I gave my life to Christ, completely. I’m not saying I changed everything, but as I drew closer to God, all those negative things began to fall away.”
“My son was like a wake-up call for me,” said West. “It could have been a lot worse for me. I have a lot of friends who aren’t even on this earth any more. I have a lot of friends and family in jail.”
After Jaden was born, West started working at Steak ‘N’ Shake and as a convenience store clerk. He was paying his bills and providing for his family. Soon, he would be in a position where he could make a positive impact on young people in Goshen.
Serving the community
A friend mentioned a job opening at a local faith-based, non-denominational youth center located in Goshen’s former post office, called The Post. West applied, and was offered a position as an athletic director, which he held it for two-and-a-half years. Later, he was offered the job of director.
“Nobody is required to be here at The Post,” said West. “Everybody comes here of their own free will. … Most of our kids have been kicked out of other places, or they haven’t felt that connection in other places, so we deal with a lot of kids who have been labeled in negative ways.”
West and The Post staff also work to overcome the generational poverty that impacts many of the kids who walk through the doors. According to West, the concept of generational poverty has very little to do with money. It is, perhaps, a stickier kind of poverty: the kind that is propelled by how you think and what you are taught.
“It’s more about a lack of motivation and determination,” he explained. “The kids don’t want many things out of life because they don’t know there are other things to life. We’re here to give them a positive place so that they can come and ultimately just hang out and stay off the streets.”
At the same time, West and his team are able to build lasting, faith-filled relationships with The Post kids.
“Since we’re faith-based, anytime I give advice I’m also able to introduce Christ,” said West. “That’s our ultimate goal: Providing a positive place to come and hang out, while also introducing kids to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
West comes from a faith background, noting that he “grew up going to church every time they opened the doors.” Believing in neither chance nor coincidence, West feels he was put in Goshen for a reason. A big part of the reason is The Post.
As for how he came to be the director of the youth center, West offered simple explanation: “God.”
Faith, fun, and fellowship
In addition to exploring their faith, kids come to The Post to have fun. The facility offers weight rooms and WiFi. It is also home to after-school programs including I Am Second, a national movement designed to inspire people from all walks of life to live for God and for others. It features testimonials from actors, athletes, musicians, and business leaders, among others.
Education is also key at the club. West is looking for more people to help tutor young people at The Post. For kids who have perhaps fallen behind in school, The Post offers a program on Thursdays focused on setting personal achievement goals – like how to pursue a GED, get an apartment, find a job, etc.
“I try to tell them, ‘People can take anything from you, but what they can never take is what you’ve learned,’” West said. “’Your knowledge is yours.’”
In addition to more structured programs, The Post offers plenty of informal activities. Music is always playing, and the kids play foosball and cards. West notes that he is The Post’s Uno champion.
And, of course, Nate’s personal favorite: hoops.
“We play a whole lot of basketball,” West said. “I love basketball, so we play a lot of it … It’s funny how so many kids come in here hating basketball, but then and keep coming in. And eventually, they get pretty good!”
A small group of young people were playing hoops one recent afternoon at the club. They took time out to talk about what The Post means to them.
“It’s like a second family,” said Goshen High School student Alexa Jackson, 16.
Alexa’s brother, Alex, 16, who attends Merit Learning Center, enjoys going to The Post to play basketball, hang out with friends, and sometimes play xBox. He also likes the snack room.
“The Post introduced me to God,” said Jordan Kapangama, 18, another Merit student.
Since Jaden was born, West and his wife have had two more children: Brooklynn, 16 months, and Preslie, 5 months. Kelsey, a Goshen College graduate, is the assistant to the athletic director at Goshen High School and is also the head volleyball coach at GHS.
Nate West is a family man, and one committed to helping guide the young people of Goshen. He’s also a thankful man.
“I thank God every day for the highs and lows, my successes and failures, the good choices and the bad because it made me the man I am today,” West said. “God continues to send me places in life I never imagined. My decision to attend Goshen College has opened doors I would never have imagined. The place I couldn’t wait to leave is the place I now call my home.”
“The kids don’t want many things out of life because they don’t know there are other things to life.”
“I try to tell them, ‘People can take anything from you, but what they can never take is what you’ve learned.’”
“The place I couldn’t wait to leave is the place I now call my home.”
Do you know someone who may want to join The Post?
The Post is open to Goshen-area youth ages 11-19. An exception is made for younger children if Post kids want to bring their younger siblings – under the condition that they’re responsible for their siblings’ behavior. West said “I have to babysit” shouldn’t be a reason for someone to miss going to the club.
You can contact The Post on their web site, or by phone: (574) 534-POST.
Good of Goshen Photography • Lynne Zehr