Uplifting the Next Generation - Black Enterprise

Uplifting the Next Generation

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Thirteen years ago, Larry Quick realized there was a growing need for a place where young black men in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood could go to receive after-school academic tutoring and arts training. They would also receive encouragement, gain life skills, and most importantly, have a shoulder to lean on.

With the help of co-founders Mary Brown and Ben Johnson, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization Life Pieces to Masterpieces (www.lifepieces.org) was born. Quick, Brown, and Johnson designed the program to empower at-risk African American male youths, ages 3 to 21.

Since 1996, LPTM has served more than 600 boys and this year the program serves more than 200 students, seven of whom will finish the program with $50,000 in college funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Achievers Scholarship, a renewable scholarship good for each year throughout graduate school. All students in the program enter post-secondary education after graduating from high school.

LPTM came about quite organically, says Brown, the executive director. In 1996, Brown was working for another nonprofit in the Washington, D.C., area where she crossed paths with Quick, then a full-time student at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. Quick, now 38, titled his senior  thesis “Strong Man’s Series,” a reflection on adolescent years and personal hurdles on painted canvas. He incorporated artwork from young men in his community as part of his thesis. During this process, Quick noticed that the boys gravitated toward him and looked to him as a mentor.

Brown and Quick started with a group of seven children. They took the kids on trips to museums, art galleries, and bowling. The seven boys quickly grew into a troop of 35. Brown, seeing the growth in numbers, proposed turning the small program into a legitimate nonprofit. Through blood, sweat, tears, and some personal savings from the founding members, LPTM was off and running. To date, Brown annually contributes $4,000 of her personal savings and Quick continues to consult for the program and function as a role model for the apprentices.

The real challenge of sustaining any nonprofit is developing a consistent pipeline of funding, which is where the third piece to their trinity, Johnson, comes in. Johnson started as a volunteer for the