Tyrone Flowers is the founder of Higher M-Pact, an organization here in Kansas City that is doing the real work of helping high risk urban youth. It will be our pro bono client at Barkley Evergreen & Partners as I mentioned in a previous post.
Tyrone came to speak to our company today and tell his story. It would be impossible to do it justice as only Tyrone can tell his story. But from the first time I met him about a year ago he stayed in my head. He was introduced to me by a mutual friend who hoped that we might decide to help Tyrone and Higher M-Pact. We couldn't do it right away but now the time is right for both organizations.
Simply put, Tyrone lived the childhood of the young men he is working with today. His parents were teenagers and he was raised by his grandparents with 12 other siblings. He never had new clothes. They had to make their own sporting goods - footballs made of paper and duct tape for example. And one meal a day was a "success" as Tyrone puts it.
He had no direction and he got violent. And he got in trouble and became a part of "the system," from mental hospitals to detention centers. He was labeled and given up on by everyone and told he would never amount to anything. When he reached what would have been his senior year in high school he was released into the custody of a family member and told to play basketball. Like he says, he was 6'4" and over 200 pounds and as an African-American, that was what he was supposed to do. He was a good player and was told he could have scholarships to play at four or five Division Two schools. He says he didn't know what a scholarship was.
That's when a basketball acquaintance of his shot him after an argument on a bus. Three times with a 357 Magnum. It put Tyrone in a wheelchair for life.
And that is when he made his choice. He went to a local community college and worked hard and transferred to the University of Missouri. He worked hard and graduated and decided to go to law school. He worked hard and earned his law degree. Somewhere in there is when he made a decision to help high risk youth - young men like himself who needed someone who wouldn't give up on them.
Tyrone was married and he and his wife, Renee, started Higher M-Pact on a part-time basis in 1993. They went full time in 2003. And it is a model that will work anywhere with the right kind of people and support. Check it out when you have a chance. I have a link under Causes to Consider on the right side of the blog. I will keep you updated on what we are doing with Higher M-Pact.