One Family's Kofi Story: Malik and Sonya

Malik Compton describes what he was like at the age of eight with just one word: “trouble.” It’s hard to believe considering the confident, well-mannered young man he is today, but Malik says he used to be short-tempered and disruptive. He talked back at home and he was unmotivated at school.

Malik’s mother Sonya recognized that he needed a push in the right direction. She found out about Wilder’s Kofi Services from a friend and enrolled Malik in the Kofi program through Galtier Elementary School in Saint Paul.

Kofi Services are culturally specific school-based programs that develop the positive functioning of African-American youth. Kofi counselors are embedded in Saint Paul Public Schools where they provide counseling, role modeling and mentorship to African-American boys and girls struggling to behave in school and at home. Counselors step in to help with behavior issues throughout the school day and plan activities that teach important lessons about cultural awareness, confidence and self-worth. The Kofi model has been available in Saint Paul Public Schools for over 20 years, helping hundreds of African-American youth succeed in school and beyond.

Malik needed a positive role model, and he found one in his Kofi Counselor, Mr. Allen. Mr. Allen taught Malik that he didn’t have to be tough, that he could share his feelings with his family and teachers. Malik began to think differently about himself and his actions; his behavior improved and so did his grades. He recalls how Mr. Allen used to reward good behavior by throwing pizza parties for the boys and girls in Kofi. “Eventually, we didn’t need the parties, we just started behaving better.” Through elementary and middle school, Malik made lasting friendships through Kofi and has become a confident, positive person.

“It was like a light bulb turned on,” says Sonya. “A child who was getting F’s started to show up on the honor roll. A child who never wanted to get out of bed in the morning turned into a motivated young man.”

Since graduating from Kofi four years ago, Malik continues to add to his list of accomplishments. This spring he graduated high school with honors. Inspired by his mother who has been a hairstylist for 30 years, Malik plans to attend college this fall in order to train as a barber and learn about business. His goal is to open his own barber shop one day, something Sonya describes as a family dream.

Sonya remains a strong advocate for Kofi Services. In 2013 she shared powerful testimony with the Minnesota Legislature about how Kofi has helped her son and family. Following this experience she was inspired to join Wilder’s Neighborhood Leadership Program to develop her leadership and community organizing skills. She plans to put those skills to work by pushing for Kofi to be offered in more suburban Twin Cities schools.

When asked about his Kofi experience, Malik doesn’t hesitate: “Being in Kofi changed my life.”

Visit the Kofi page for more details about these life-changing services. 


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​Learn more about the Wilder areas that Malik and Sonya have impacted:

Public Policy

Neighborhood Leadership Program