Local mentoring group shares important life lessons with kids without dads

The MVP Foundation, a local mentoring group, has taken it upon themselves to be father figures to African American kids without dads (KTUL).

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Some members of our community are trying to make something positive out of the shooting death of Terence Crutcher and other shootings like it.

Crutcher was killed by police almost a year ago, but now these incidents are being used as an important lesson for young men.

The MVP Foundation, a local mentoring group, has taken it upon themselves to be father figures to African American kids without dads.

The group teaches basic life skills about interacting with law enforcement.

"You have to fight for your life in a sense," 16-year-old Dean Rae Sykes said.

Sykes says even at a young age, the odds are stacked against him.

"Yeah you don't have a father and you are black, but you are smart and you still have people behind you," he said.

Damario Solomon-Simmons is the co-founder of the MVP Foundation.

"They learn how to tie a tie, how to shake a man's hand, they learn how to use tools, how to interact with police," Solomon-Simmons said.

Sykes says a case like the shooting death of Terence Crutcher is just another reason more kids just like him should be a part of this program.

Learning skills that he says could save his life.

"Always keep the hands on the wheel where the officer can see them, if you are going to reach for something let them know beforehand, always be kind and let them have the upper hand," Sykes said.

Soloman-Simmons pulls from his own experiences to help these young men survive.

"We are trying to save these black males who are under assault in so many different ways from so many different segments in society," he said.

Sykes is a star in Solomon-Simmons' eyes, while Sykes says he wouldn't be who he is today without Solomon-Sykes and the MVP Foundation. He is looking at 30 colleges and planning his career at a young age.

"It instilled in me confidence that I couldn't get anywhere else," Sykes said.

The folks at Coney I-Lander understand the need for this program in the community.

They are donating to the cause. A portion of the sales from the purchase of a souvenir cup will go toward the foundation.

The money will help open up 25 more spots for kids.

"Anytime we can connect young people to resources, mentorships and programs that can make for a stronger Tulsa, we want to jump in and help," Director of Business Development Kyle Cermak said.

Solomon-Simmons grew up with a similar story to Sykes. He knows something as simple as just being there can make a huge difference.

"Just having a man put his arm around you and saying, 'Man, I love you and I believe in you,' that pushes them so far," Solomon-Simmons said.

And Sykes is working to go far, hoping to one day be a surgeon.

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