by: Contributed photo PRESTON SALAMI

Gresham resident Preston Salami, manager of a Wells Fargo bank branch in Portland, was honored for his youth mentoring work by the Portland Trail Blazers during its Wednesday, Feb. 1, game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

'Everyone was clapping and cheering. It was awesome,' Salami, 27, said in a news release. (The Trail Blazers honored­­­­­ one African-American individual at each home game in February for Black History Month.)

Salami attended the game with his wife, Tara; his brother, Jubreel Salami of Portland; and a 16-year-old boy named Paul, whom Preston has mentored for the past year.

Paul lives at St. Mary's Home For Boys in Beaverton. The nonprofit agency, which nominated Salami for the honor, provides residential treatment and services to at-risk boys between the ages of 10 and 17 who are emotionally disturbed and behaviorally delinquent.

Each week, Salami travels to the home where he spends an hour with Paul. They play basketball, air hockey, talk or just hang out.

'I talk with him about his plans for the future and getting through the program at St. Mary's. He has progressed very fast,' Salami said. 'We talk about everything in life and how it can make us a better person, depending on how we decide to handle it.'

Salami said he takes a positive approach with the youth and gives him encouragement as a friend and a mentor, but he also lets the boy know when he needs to improve his actions.

Salami lived in North Portland where he had youth football coaches and his parents advising him as he grew up.

'My mom and dad were always there, encouraging me to do the best I could,' he said. 'If I can be that one person they remember when they are my age, then it's worth that hour a week.'

Salami said he appreciated the recognition from the Trail Blazers but doesn't feel he does anything out of the ordinary.

'If anyone can take an hour out of (his or her) week to talk to a child, I recommend it,' he said. 'You'll get more out of it than you give, that's for sure.'

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