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With 94% of I AM MENtality youth being African American and a Black Executive Director who beat the odds of growing up in Baltimore with teen parents, celebrating Black History Month is a tradition that is dear to our heart as an organization. Baltimore is 62% Black, and many of our youth are behind in literacy and math skills. We cannot begin to shape the future of male youth in Baltimore without understanding Black America’s history and the struggles that generations of Black families in our community have endured.

On Sunday, February 21, FOX 45 Baltimore recognized I AM MENtality Founder Darren Rogers as a community champion in its 34th Champions of Courage essay contest segment for Black History Month. It is his ability and commitment to inspire our male youth that affords him this honor. His vision to help build a better Baltimore through hands-on mentorship and community support honors the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader of hope that the Champions of Courage program celebrates.

This recognition comes after a two-week-long annual fundraising campaign, For the Love of Baltimore, which raised $27,268 to support I AM MENtality programming for youth in need. Historically, Black-led nonprofit organizations have received far less community support than predominantly white charities. It is a barrier that Rogers has pushed since he launched the organization five years ago.

“I have laid down my life for them [Baltimore male youth] to be able to get to the next level,” Rogers explained in the latest interview. He is always finding ways to engage Baltimore’s male youth in activities that teach vital skills like teamwork, communication, leadership and critical thinking. Check out pictures from the latest engagement at Earth Treks Hampden.

In previous years, Rogers’ I AM MENtality team took the boys to the National Great Wax Museum and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial to learn about Black history. He understands that these educational experiences are essential as we position Baltimore’s male youth for future success. Our youth may come from adverse situations, but Rogers and the growing I AM MENtality community believe we can change their lives’ trajectory by placing positive role models/mentors in front of them every day.