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Young Men of Purpose lifts up the next generation of Black and Brown boys: "The light at the end of the tunnel"

Young Men of Purpose lifts up the next generation of Black and Brown boys
Young Men of Purpose lifts up the next generation of Black and Brown boys 02:07

A celebration more than a decade in the making filled the Denver Highlands neighborhood with music and excitement. Dozens of families celebrated Young Men of Purpose, or "YMOP," as the nonprofit recently held its inaugural Night of Purpose gala.

"In 15 years, we've had 40 schools, 5,000 students impacted," Rico Wint, CEO and founder of YMOP, told CBS News Colorado's Mekialaya White, who emceed the event. "We're coming to the community that we've been working in, saying, 'Hey, guys, we can do more work extrapolate our effort if we can get some funds to do it."

Wint graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2008 and says his vision for YMOP began immediately after that.

"In 2009, I went back to my old high school, Aurora Central. They were like, 'Could you just talk to a group of boys?' I didn't think it was very good, I just kind of said some things," he said. "And what I began to realize was that there was just this void for young Black and Brown boys to have educators and mentors that look like them. Let's be real -- fatherlessness is an issue and it's like, who do I model myself after?"

Young Men of Purpose

Since then, Wint and COO Dwayne Brown have brought their enrichment program to Denver-area schools, being those leaders for YMOP boys.

"To say, this is a blueprint for your life and how you can make things happen. One school called, and another called and we're still at it. Now, we are a district partner for Aurora Public Schools and Denver Public Schools," Wint said.

"I was actually one of the originals," said YMOP graduate Joshua Butler. He's proof that the program is life-changing.

Rico Wint, his wife Casandra and CBS News Colorado anchor Mekialaya White at Young Men of Purpose celebration.  CBS

"In 2011, I had a car accident I broke my neck, and I ended up having a C6 fracture and the guys were there for me, being able to talk to them and get me through -- being at a down point in your life and being like am I going to be able to get back to what I was. I went to Gateway High School and there was always a lot of fighting and all that. YMOP was the light at the end of the tunnel," Butler said.

That sentiment doesn't just ring true for Butler. YMOP grads show you don't have to be defined by your circumstances.

"You get to the bottom of bottom and you get to the top as well," he said.

"You don't have to do it that way. You can go to college, you can go to trade school, you can be a man and take care of your family, you can do the right thing, that's cool too," Wint added.

YMOP is always looking to welcome new students with open arms. To learn more, click here.

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