ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando city commissioners voted this week to approve $1 million to help fund the My Brother’s Keeper program, expanding it to four new neighborhoods throughout the city.
The program is a national initiative started by President Barack Obama aimed at helping minority youth reach their full potential.
City Commissioner Regina Hill said she supports the approved funding and it’s much needed for the boys in her district and throughout the city.
“Let them know that the community hasn’t forgotten about them, and they do have a place in this city, and they can become productive citizens,” Hill said.
She said the program is also aimed at mentorship, counseling and helping teens find jobs.
“I could have ended up being dead, or in jail with the way I was going,” said Sedarius Turner.
Turner is a Jones High School graduate who grew up in Parramore. He said he turned his life around thanks to the My Brother’s Keeper Program.
He said he’s more inspired to encourage other young men who look like him to make better choices. He’s now a mentor for the program.
“I was in a lot of fights. I just didn’t have anyone to talk to," Turner said. “Without having someone to be there for me and tell me everything is going to be alright, it’s different than just saying it, but showing it.”
He’s also reacting days after Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies said a three-year-old boy was killed in Pine Hills after a series of gang-related drive-by shootings.
“Losing two of my best friends to gun violence. It’s sad to see,” said Turner.
Raysean Brown also mentors kids in Parramore and is a former coordinator for the My Brother’s Keeper program.
“It isn’t too late. We’ve all made bad decisions, and if you met me when I was 16 or 17, you wouldn’t believe that’s the guy sitting in front of you today,” said Brown.
Brown grew up in Parramore and is a first-generation college student. He still gives back to his community regularly.
“Now I can tell a kid, ‘The same crossroads you were at I was at, but here’s how it looks on this side,’” said Brown.
You can read more about the My Brother’s Keeper Program and ways to get involved here.