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LEONARD HAMMONDS II listens to comments made by Rhyheim Sutton, a participant in the Pipeline to Purpose program at the Penn Hills YMCA. (Photo by John Ford)

Leonard Hammonds II has been there, done that, and now he’s doing all he can to make sure area young Black males don’t head down the same path.

The 1994 Penn Hills High School graduate told the New Pittsburgh Courier he spent eight years in the marines serving his country. “And I said, once I got out, now is my opportunity to serve the community, and there’s no end date in sight.”

Thus, the Pipeline to Purpose program was born. Since returning to Pittsburgh five years ago from Dallas, Hammonds II has made it a personal ordeal to save as many Black youth as possible from what the world brings them.


“I was a knucklehead at one point, out there doing so many different things,” Hammonds II said. “Now, here’s my opportunity to go out there and save the youth from some of the same stumbling blocks and pitfalls that I went through. What better thing to do…because our youth right now, they’re dying daily. We all have a responsibility to get out here and do what we can.”

Each Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Penn Hills YMCA, Hammonds II holds an hour-long session with area Black youth, teaching them how to stay out of trouble, while allowing them to express feelings they might not be able to express anywhere else.

“Friendship” is one of the main components that is taught, said Tyvon Johnson, a member of the program. “And not doing bad things, learning from the mistakes I did. And to be responsible for what you do, and to call him when you need anything,” Johnson added.

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