TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A local business, along with state and local leaders, are giving their support to a anti-gang initiative.
The Crepevine Restaurant, is hosting 50 LARGE on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at its new location at Gaines Street and Railroad Avenue. The young men, their parents and the staff and community partners of 50 LARGE will act as hosts throughout the day, answering questions from the restaurant's guests. As part of its “Share Day” program, Crepevine will donate a portion of the day’s profits to 50 LARGE when guests mention the organization at the register.
Just before noon, the Secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Wansley Walters, will join Leon School Superintendent Jackie Pons and Tallahassee Community College President Jim Murdaugh for a press conference.
"I am thrilled to see these young men, their parents, educators and members of the community working together to keep children in school and out of trouble," said Walters. “Each child has great potential, but we know that without the right support, many at-risk youth turn to a life of crime. This type of partnership is critical to ensure that when a child starts down the wrong road, someone is there to help him understand his value to the community and to equip him with the tools and skills to lead a better life."
Superintendent of Leon Schools Jackie Pons pointed to the program’s success at improving outcomes for young men who may have had some trouble in the past. "Our goal is to educate all of our students in a way that develops in them a lifetime of learning," said Superintendent Pons. "Programs like 50 LARGE are successful because of the hands-on approach and focus of on real world experiences it provides to our students."
50 LARGE has mentored more than 200 young men with outstanding results: 100 percent showed increased reading levels; 80 percent gave up their gang involvement, 68 percent met all the program requirements, 65 percent improved their school attendance and 63 percent reduced their substance abuse.
Murdaugh noted that TCC is attended by several members of 50 LARGE who have succeeded in bettering their lives.
"They have literally gone from the courtroom to the verge of graduation in a few years," he said. "The seamless collaboration between parents, educators, law enforcement and the business community have made it possible."
Christopher Butler is one of those 50 LARGE success stories. Today Butler is a scholarship student at TCC, expected to graduate in the spring. He plans to major in information technology at Florida State University. But his life could have taken a very different turn.
"I had a financial situation and I didn't want to tell anybody, so I started selling marijuana at school," Butler said. "So I got into trouble, and that's when 50 LARGE came in to help me."
He called the 50 LARGE staff his mentors and role models.
"They helped me get out of the situation that I was in, and then they took me in as a little brother, as a family member. And they've just held onto me ever since then, and I've been successful ever since then."
Corey agreed that it's important for at-risk young men to have mentors – including in the business community.
"It's important because it will help them see the possibilities," said Corey, "and we're hoping that by showcasing what it is to live the American Dream to these young people, that will inspire them to make better choices."
The 50 LARGE "Day at The Crepevine" will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 809 Railroad Avenue.