From Del Paso Heights to D.C., why a Sacramento man's story about redemption gets noticed
DEL PASO HEIGHTS – When the president delivers his State of the Union address Tuesday, a familiar face from Sacramento will also be in the crowd.
Brother to Brother group is a peer-mentoring program, based in Del Paso Heights, working with boys and men to deter them from the lifestyle of the streets.
It also partners with police to help bring peace talks into the community.
Recently, founder Mervin Brookins brainstormed with his employees and mentors on how to reintegrate a troubled teenager.
"How do you reach a youngster who thinks he knows it all?" Brookins asked. "Here's the situation: He's 14, he has three gun possession cases."
Is it possible to turn this boy's life around?
Pastor Penani Poloai was one of four men at the meeting. He is optimistic. The biggest misconception is that it cannot be done, he said.
"I believe when people come out and they're ready for that second chance," he said.
At one point, each of the four men sat behind bars.
Their circumstances were different, but their transformation started with Brother to Brother.
When Robert Cooper got out, he had no resume but found employment with the group. Now, he is passionate about reaching at-risk kids. It is not always easy.
"It's difficult because you have to first build trust," Cooper said.
While kids may not always have the best judgment, they are skilled at spotting out fakes. Walking the talk lends credibility. Also, the fact the men hail from Del Paso Heights gives them some level of trust.
After Bronshaey Williams caught a case, someone intervened.
"I got to thinking in my head, 'If [we're going] to change, we're going to change sometimes,'" he said.
Three years ago, Brookins offered Williams a lifeline by becoming a mentor and youth coach.
Brookins' approach is gaining national attention.
In a once-of-a-lifetime opportunity, he will be attending the State of the Union address at the invite of Rep. Ami Bera.
"I was floored. I was surprised," Brookins said. "A bunch of emotions went through my mind. The first of which was i wish my dad was alive to share this moment."
The boy from Del Paso Heights who ran into trouble later found himself on the right side of the law.
About seven years ago, he started Brother to Brother in hopes of providing accountability, transformation and redemption.
He acknowledges it is impossible to reach every single young person in the community yet believes if his approach is done right, then it can lead to long lasting change.
"Our hope is that we reach enough people to change the culture. If we can get the culture changed, then the culture will reach more people," he said.
For some, change may come through employment or sports.
But the connection with troubled men and boys is where the work begins.
Sometimes, seeing is not always believing.
"I think it's harder to change the perception of the individuals. It's harder to convince to people that sometimes people just make mistakes. It doesn't make them bad people," Brookins said. "Good people make poor choices."
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