Meet Bruce Watts. He’s giving forward by teaching young adults accountability, respect and integrity.


For Bruce Watts, the word “retirement” has nothing to do with inactivity. It’s more a process of shifting gears. “Let’s just say I’m redefining my relationship to work,” says Bruce.

A former Senior Director at TriMet, Bruce and his wife now live in Astoria, but he regularly returns to Portland as a senior mentor to young men through the Coalition of Black Men. While in Portland, he also serves as Board Chair of Albina Opportunities Corporation, and as a Board member with the Urban League and the Metropolitan Contractor Improvement Partnership, three organizations also focused on empowering African Americans and others to improve their lives.

A father of two, Bruce recognizes the need for role models and believes in the Coalition’s philosophy of teaching youth accountability, respect for family, spirituality, justice and integrity.

In recent years, staff from Portland Public Schools reached out to the Coalition of Black Men out of concern that young black males faced disproportionate discipline in local schools.

Having never worked in schools, Bruce still stepped up and became a mentor to several middle schoolers. It wasn’t easy at first. “I stood there at the door of the school when they arrived,” he says. “Their first reaction was, ‘Who is this guy, and why does he want me to shake his hand?’ Establishing trust takes time, but the payoff is worth the investment.”

Today, Bruce and other Coalition volunteers follow a three track approach to mentoring. One track – sports – enables students to explore the business of sports, including behind-the-scenes elements of working with Nike and the Trail Blazers. Through the second track – healthcare – mentees learn about careers ranging from physicians and nurses to technicians and researchers. The third track – science and technology – gives youth opportunities like touring Intel and meeting with African-American employees who fire their imaginations about the career opportunities that open up with a solid education.

“The Intel visit took what we were trying to instill in the students from the abstract into a real world setting,” says Bruce. “Their eyes were wide with wonder.”

SAGE celebrates Bruce Watts for the example he sets for elders who work with young adults of all backgrounds. Through dedication of time, talent and energy, he’s influencing the choices young people make and helping them to secure a brighter future.

Bruce’s Tips for Giving Forward

1. Consider the long term effects of helping a child reach his or her full potential. As a senior mentor, you are sending energy forward through countless generations to come.

2. Intergenerational and intercultural contacts are essential to navigating the pressing issues we face today. Much is gained by knocking down the barriers that sometimes keep us from appreciating one another.

3. There is a paradox inherent in giving oneself to others. What you get in return is compounded many times over.

If you would like to learn more, contact SAGE.


“Establishing trust with a mentee takes time, but the payoff is worth the investment.”