TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A local organization is investing in the lives of young Black men across Tampa Bay by providing mentoring, academic support, new experiences, and more.
The Gentlemen’s Quest of Tampa has rendered service to this community since 2014. Hundreds of minority students’ lives have changed thanks to the organization.
“Things at home, I have to be the man of the house… and how would I know how to be a man if I’ve never had that role in my life,” said Jaron Williams.
Williams is a sophomore at Armwood High School. He’s a new member of Gentlemen’s Quest, but the impact has already been tremendous.
“I’m very grateful to be in this program,” Williams said. “Recently we went on a boat and I’m scared of big bodies of water and I’m scared to touch live things, so I conquered two of my fears in one. I went in a big body of water and touched a live shrimp.”
Jayalan Monroe is a junior at Tampa Bay Technical School.
“Back when I was a child it was just really rough with parents and stuff,” Monroe said.
Williams, Monroe, and the other 73 members of GQ are all facing obstacles out of their control, but GQ is filling in the gaps.
“It’s helped me grow into an amazing man I need to become,” Monroe said.
GQ is a mentorship program for minority students. It focuses on helping them excel in the classroom and in life. Tavis Myrick is the executive director of the program.
“I grew up without a father and there were some experiences I didn’t have,” Myrick said.
Now he’s ensuring kids in Tampa Bay don’t have that same story.
“With the right mentoring and support and accountability, there is no limit, there is no ceiling to how far these kids can go,” Myrick said.
Every Wednesday, 75 students across Tampa Bay come to their headquarters in East Tampa. They come dressed in business attire; they even wear that to school. While at the center, guest speakers come in, the students get help with school work, and they even have a life skills curriculum created by Myrick. They also go on field trips.
“We went to Atlanta and went to four different colleges,” Monroe said. “That was amazing. I had never been to a college before.”
Recently, the students published their own book entitled ‘I am a Young Black Man.” It started off just as an assignment.
“As they were presenting their poems, I was sitting there in awe with that they were sharing,” Myrick said. “I remember thinking this is not just a moment, this is bigger than this moment.”
Inside of the book, every student has their poem and picture illustrated.
“We are setting these students on a path to success,” Myrick said. “At 14, 15, 16 years old, these young men can say I am a teen author.”
Since 2014, GQ has maintained a 100% high school graduation rate. Not to mention, every student has gone on to either college, trade school, or the military.
“To me, that’s a big deal because we’re talking about Black and brown youth that are graduating high school and going off into their future with a plan to defy all odds and to not become a statistic,” Myrick said.
A plethora of opportunities and lessons, mixed with a lot of love, come from Myrick, and his impact is immeasurable.
“Since Mr. Myrick got on me, I have improved,” Monroe said. “Sophomore year, I went from a 2.0 to a 3.0 and now I’m trying to work my way up to a 4.0.”
“He’s teaching me how to become a man, I don’t have that at home, so I’m grateful,” Williams said.
The organization is a non-profit that fully funds everything for the students: field trips, guest speakers, etc. It operates on donations. Right now, their book is on sale on Amazon. All proceeds are helping fund a trip to Washington, D.C. for a college tour and a trip to the African American Museum. Click here for more details on how you can support.
On Monday, Myrick was recognized by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vinik Foundation as a Community Hero for all of his efforts. The organization received a $50,000 grant.