In America, young black men are generally not recognized unless they are entertaining or breaking the law. It is important to shine light on those who are excelling in their field.
“We’re going to flip these 20 years into 20 football offers.” It’s a promise Gary L. Davis Sr. made to Kemari Averett, as he would with any of his other mentees.
Davis is CEO and founder of Next Level Boys Academy in South Fulton County. His focus is, “Changing a generation of young men, one community at a time,” through exposing young men of color to different opportunities. The academy offers multiple outlets for adolescents to seek guidance through summer camps, after school and diversion programs.
Averett was a beneficiary of the diversion program and one of Davis’ top success stories. When Averett joined the program, he was a juvenile facing 20 years in prison for armed robbery and aggravated assault with the possession of a firearm. Determined to succeed, he and Davis spent a year working on anger management, conflict resolution and personal development. At the time of their introduction, Averett played high school football with an ankle monitor on. Despite the obstacles, last month Averett received a scholarship to play football at the University of Louisville. Davis expresses his admiration for Averett’s success. “Trouble don’t last always,” he says with a grin. “There are some good people who make bad decisions.”
Davis loves what he does at Next Level Boys Academy. “If you really want to measure your life, you do something for someone else and get positive results,” says Davis as he reflects on his journey.
On the day of Obama’s inauguration, Davis resigned as a state employee to pursue his passion: mentoring. It was a difficult transition as the academy started as a summer camp in a single room at a daycare center. It later evolved into an after school program. Only making $100 per week, Davis struggled to pay rent and ultimately was evicted from the facility where he and a small group of children would meet. Almost losing his home and vehicle, he made many sacrifices in order to see his dream through. When times got hard, Davis reminded himself of his purpose.
“Stick to your mission; the mission is to save young men,” Davis suggests. “If you can’t do something to make other people happy, then you’re least likely to be happy with yourself.”
The mission is complete. Today, over 200 young men of color participate in various programs offered by the Next Level Boys Academy. All of Davis’ inaugural mentees are currently enrolled in college playing sports. Everyday Davis attempts to “teach these young men to love & respect each other,” because molding young boys into men can enable them with unlimited future success. “This world doesn’t have an issue with crime, drugs and alcohol; it has an issue with love,” Davis tenderly expressed. “Mentorship puts you in position to come outside of yourself.”
When asked what Davis has learned throughout the entire process, he explains, “When you are real about something, people know that. If you believe in people, people will believe in you.” The young men at Next Level Boys Academy show up everyday for guidance, love and direction. Davis is a ‘Real Brotha doing Real Business’, “Changing a generation of young men, one community at a time.”
For more information, visit Nextlevelboysacademy.com
– Radio Journalist, Julien Virgin, is a staff writer for CBS Radio Atlanta.