DeSOTO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – In DeSoto, a community is mourning.
Last week, family and friends gathered for 17-year-old Leroy Hawkins’ high school graduation. Thursday night, they gathered to say their final goodbyes.
Hawkins was shot and killed in downtown Dallas this week. A classmate from the Class of 2019, Kenaijae Anderson has been charged with his murder.
“These young men will some day be some fathers, these young men will be business owners, these young men will be our future leaders,” says Dallas firefighter, department chaplain, businessman and mentor Ray Schufford. “But if they don’t ever get a chance because of senseless, nonsense killings, I mean… it’s just disheartening.”
Schufford says the Hawkins murder was a “nail to my spirit,” and a heartbreaking deja vu. “It takes me back to over 20 years ago when a good friend of mine was killed in the same manner as this young man was killed earlier this week.”
Schufford says his friend was headed to Baylor, and had been drafted to play major league baseball. “I’m very emotional about that because I remember, so much potential that he had… but, now, he doesn’t get to use that potential. That potential is laying in graveyard somewhere, and we want to stop that, today.”
But, in fact, Schufford has been working for years to not only tell young men growing up in challenging situations that they can be anything, but to show them those options, and point them in a better direction. While mourning his friend, Schufford vowed to make a difference.
Along with co-founder Terrance Chase, the friends began a mentoring program called MB2B: Mentoring Brother 2 Brother.
The group worked to tap into the power of community to change lives.
Rashaun Stewart says his life “did a 180” after becoming a part of the program. At ten, he admits, he was already heading for trouble.
“Stubborn, angry, explosive… getting into trouble a lot at school,” says Stewart, “I don’t know what was going on.”
But he knew what the future held if he didn’t change: “either in jail or dead,” he admits with quiet candor, “one of the two.”
He says the men he met through MB2B were “always there” for him, and their patience paid off.
“It wasn’t just one mentor,” shares Stewart, now 21, “I had every mentor I could talk to, and my brothers,” who he says he became close to during sports activities and events. Now, his conversation is not colored with despair, but with big dreams.
“I’ve finished two years of school, college… I’m in barber school now, planning to finish my bachelors,” while enthusiastically laying out his plans. “Yes ma’am, yes ma’am. I didn’t see that before.”
“You can’t help but to be proud,” adds a beaming Schufford. “We talk about when he was ten years old coming in and to see the man he’s becoming now… it’s phenomenal. It’s the way it should be.”