Who We Are

THREADS began in 2002 at the University of Michigan as a result of the creative inspiration of Drs. Lumas Helaire and Brian Carey Sims, who were both Ph.D. students at the university. With a deep desire to use their training in psychological and motivation science to serve and support the lives of historically underserved youth, they began THREADS at West Middle School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. A few years later, Dr. Jamaal Sharif Matthews came to the university, also as a Ph.D. student, and soon became the successor and director of the program, invited by Helaire and Sims. Since then, Matthews has expanded and developed the program first at the University of Michigan, and then at Montclair State University and various middle schools in the city of Newark, New Jersey.

Meet The Team 


Jamaal Sharif Matthews, PhD

Jamaal Sharif Matthews, PhD

Program Director & Co-Creator

Associate Professor, Education & Psychology
College of Education and Human Services
Montclair State University

Lumas Helaire, PhD

Lumas Helaire, PhD

Founder & Co-Creator

Associate Director, Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives
University of Michigan

Brian Carey Sims, PhD

Brian Carey Sims, PhD

Founder & Co-Creator

Executive Director, Jomoworks LLC
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)


Eric Okai

Instructor for THREADS, School Liaison, Former THREADS mentor ‘19

Kyle Boomhower

Instructor for THREADS, School Liaison, Former THREADS mentor ‘16

Mentors of the Year


Mariah Rohan & Eric Okai


Jherel Saunders-Dittimus & Jessica Smith

Past Mentor Cohorts

Mentor Testimonials

This year, THREADS meant to me a source of unity. It was very impactful to a lot of the mentees, and for me, for one, I would say it was very inspirational. Even though I was a mentor, it played a big part in my role, and I’ve seen myself progress over the whole semester and wanting to lean more into working in the urban community. I feel like a program like THREADS should be implemented everywhere, not even just Montclair State. I think a lot of colleges should open up this program, actually in the education field, because a lot of these kids need someone… who they could look up to actually tell them those encouraging words, and get them to go to school, and actually encourage them to do better in school… They’re not bad. Like they know what they’re doing. They need mentors, and THREADS will give them that.

– Jherel Saunders-Dittimus

This program is an important one… I think back to a couple of the guys in my home group saying how much having a Black male like me, how important seeing me was for them, and me being there every day that we were there, and being attentive, and being there for them, showing that I care about them, how far it went for them… What we ended up teaching them I feel was really embedded into them. I feel like it will go a long way for them. The THREADS program is so important, because I can count on one hand the amount of Black male teachers or just college-age students who understood me, you know, when I was their age. So I feel like it’s something that needs to go on.

– Sameuldo Mompoint

THREADS is important for two reasons. One, obviously, it gives the children the chance to be around more positive role models, see people that possibly look like themselves who have made it out of neighborhoods perhaps similar to theirs, which is very important. It’s important to recognize that, you know, other people have done it, because then it becomes easier for you to say, “I can do it too.” Conversely, it’s also important for mentors, especially if a mentor does not come from an urban community. Children from an urban community are demonized. They’re blamed for all kinds of things when they’re just kids, you know?… Once you give these kids love, once you show them that you’re there and you value them, they give it back. And that’s a powerful thing, you know? It helps to blow away these kind of weird stereotypes and views that we have that they’re wild, uncontrollable children. Nah, they’re just kids. So I think it’s important, because it helps the mentors see the children from urban environments as actual children. And it helps the children see the mentors as possibilities for themselves.

– Octavio Cano


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