GREENSBORO, N.C. — A non-profit has become a safe space and sense of brotherhood for young men in Greensboro.
The Black Suit Initiative was founded in 2016 when crime was on the rise.
As the trend of gun violence continues today, BSI is molding young leaders that they hope will shift the narrative.
The program's founder Evainna Ross said the idea to create a curriculum around community engagement and leadership was sparked by a survey she conducted.
“We talked to more than 60 young men to share who their role models were in the community and very few could give us an answer to that question even when we made it broader 88% could not tell us a good role model,” Ross said.
BSI felt the lack of guidance played a part in why young men were engaging in criminal activity.
“We need to find people and engage these young men with other men in the community," Ross said. "We wanted them to see some positive role models.”
So, through mentorship young men in middle and high school are groomed to become 'right now leaders'.
14-year-old Kie Osagie is one of them.
“It’s helped me grow from who I was three years ago. It’s helped me with leadership skills," Osagie said. "I’m doing taekwondo, I recently became an instructor.”
Kie said before the program he didn’t have many male role models in his life.
“Even on day one the brotherhood was one of the things that I really like about it,” Osagie said. if I have a bad day or if something happens they were here for me.”
Outside of mentorship, the young me gives back to the community by volunteering and spending time with area business owners to learn new skills.
Each year the curriculum changes.
This year, the young men are learning how to become right now entrepreneurs through a shark tank-style business competition.
“When I ask 'what you want to do' a lot of them say they want to own their own businesses and I ask 'what kind' they say I don’t know I want to own a business so this was forcing them to think about their interests to create their own small business," Ross said.
“Our business is called Brother's brownies where we’re doing a sweet potato brownie business,” Osagie said. “So creating healthy alternatives.”
Tavares Nichols now mentors young men like Kie since earning his black suit and graduating from the program.
“We have to have those leaders in this day and age because with everything going on we need people that are willing to stand up and say things need to change,” Nichols said.
Nichols participated in BSI from 6th through 12th grade.
He said the leadership and confidence he gained got him through college at North Carolina A & T and landed him his dream job as a drumline instructor.
“It shows these men that it's not a bad thing to be yourself," Nichols said. "With social media and different distractions in the world people want to do what others are doing but that may not be the best thing for you."
BSI is currently accepting applications for 6th thru 8th-grade students the deadline to apply is July 8th.
Although the program is a non-profit all aspects of the program are free.
If you’d like to donate click here.
Ross said they’re looking for people willing to speak to their 47 students. Email email@example.com if you’d like to share your story.