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From Hollywood to helping community: East Cleveland actor giving back with launch of mentoring program

After starring in film projects like 2016's "The Land," East Cleveland native Robert Hunter decided to return home to start his '5 Pillars' mentoring program.

CLEVELAND — A few years ago, artist, leader, and East Cleveland native Robert Hunter decided to take on a new mission. As an actor Robert reached unimaginable heights - starring on the big screen in movies like "The Land."

"As an artist we are natural empaths, so with that being said I'm naturally a humanitarian," Hunter said. "I love acting but I felt like it wasn't doing the job."

Hunter wants to take the lessons he learned along the way to help his community do the same, so he started his own mentoring program called "The 5 Pillars."

"The 5 Pillars Inc. is an after-school program designed to help young black boys ages 9 to 13 develop an overall sense of wellness," he said. "That's wellness spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically as well as financial wellness."

Hunter says he was inspired to start the program after moving back home to Northeast Ohio just before the pandemic. 

"I had the same story as all my peers," he said. "You grew up in a single parent home and things like that and there were certain things that i felt inadequate about and I felt like, you know what can I do to make my community better so other black boys don't have my same narrative."

So he began creating programming around five pillars of sustainability that he saw lacking in the community. Since starting the program in 2021, it has been implemented in schools, community centers and housing spaces all across Northeast Ohio and is custom fit for each young man he encounters.

"When it comes down to 5 Pillars, I try to meet them where they are at and bring them up," he said. "So, like you see me in the basketball gym ....anybody else will say well y'all just playing basketball. No, we are taking that opportunity to meet them where they're at and they learn leadership through basketball, they learn trial and error through basketball, I make them evaluate themselves.

Hunter says he can already see his efforts paying off.

"We never know what can happen because I'm seeing boys who everybody wrote off, making changes in less than a year. And it's a blessing for me to even be a part of their growth."

Robert is looking for coaches to help expand the 5 Pillars Inc. team - you can reach out to him directly at rhunter@5pillarsinc.org.

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