P.U.R.E. Youth Athletic Alliance
Story by Leslie Harris Colvett
Photos submitted by P.U.R.E. Youth
Melvin Cole, founder and executive director of P.U.R.E. Youth, was once these boys. He was an accomplished football player for Bowling Green State University, but an injury happened and then he went down a destructive path resulting in a 45-year jail sentence. During his time in prison, Melvin made a promise to God that if he safely made it out of jail he would do God’s good work. Amazingly, Melvin was released after only about 30 months in jail, and that is when his second chance at life began.
“These boys listen to me, because I am them, and they know if they don’t listen to me, they will soon go where I’ve been,” Melvin says.Melvin Cole
"I used to be them, and nobody helped me. So, I made a pact with God that if I got our of prison then I would commit the rest of my life to helping kids like me," Melvin says. In 2011, Melvin opened a gym on Millbranch in Southaven called A-1 Fitness, training these high school boys physically for football and athletics. As time went on, Melvin realized these boys were excelling at athletics, namely football, but struggling with academics. The gym was successful, but he decided to shut it down and focus on training, mentoring and home schooling the boys to provide what they needed beyond the classrooms. Their parents were very supportive. “These boys listen to me, because I am them, and they know if they don’t listen to me, they will soon go where I’ve been,” Melvin says.
Memphian Tammy Golwen was volunteering at Hanley School in Orange Mound,and Sherita Darden with Hanley School introduced Tammy to Melvin, asking if she could help Melvin by tutoring the boys. Tammy and Melvin realized how behind the boys were academically and with the help of the boys’ families and retired volunteer teachers they started an accredited homeschool program for the boys. The home school program includes all subjects plus agriculture/gardening and STEM projects, “We started the home school project in 2016, and we did it as a family. It was very holistic how it came about with the volunteers and the support of the boys’ families,” Tammy says.
Tammy’s husband John, a managing partner at Bass, Berry and Sims, PLLC, became a mentor to the boys, teaching them civics, history and government. Since then, John has introduced several Memphis executives and local leaders to the P.U.R.E. Youth program, including Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad. Kemp was seeking a way he could give hands-on service within the community, and this was a great fit. “I go to the boys’ games, we go to weekly yoga classes together at Hot Yoga Plus (a vinyasa style power flow hot class that Hot Yoga Plus offers once per week complimentary to the boys). I took the boys to Memphis In May BBQ Fest, which was an experience the boys got to enjoy that they otherwise may never have gotten to experience. I have also taken the boys bike riding at Shelby Farms, where they are exposed to the beauty that Shelby Farms has to offer,” Kemp says. “Melvin is their ultimate mentor / coach, but we all need mentors in life, so we are working on getting them other male mentors who can share their perspectives and experiences,” Kemp says. He also notes Mayor Jim Strickland’s statistic that at an risk-youth with a mentor is 55% more likely to be enrolled in college.
It is a very exciting time for P.U.R.E. Youth as these boys are being recruited by universities including Texas A&M, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Oregan, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Baylor. Currently, the three-plus acres of land in Whitehaven is being developed into a place that the P.U.R.E. Youth boys will thrive at athletics, academics and residentials.
....these boys are being recruited by universities including Texas A&M, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Oregan, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Baylor.
The demand is so high for teenage boys in the community to be served and mentored that Tammy and Melvin have a vision and hope that P.U.R.E. Youth is to help underserved teenage boys from Memphis with a 24-hour holistic program. “The reason for this is to get these boys to a higher education,” Tammy says.
For more information on P.U.R.E. Youth Athletic Alliance, visit www.pureyouth.org.
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