GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - You hear the term “role model” kicked around a lot, but often it’s just a glorified term. But in the case of Gulfport’s Abra Taylor and all the things he does for his community, calling him a role model is putting it lightly.
Taylor grew up locally and says while his time as a youth wasn't troubled, it wasn't exactly full of people he could look up to and learn from.
“I think, outside of church, there wasn’t anything else,” Taylor said. “As I became older, and also seeing the environment I was growing up in, I saw some of the young men and the path that they were going, and I was thinking man, it’s time we make a change in our community for the better.”
A grown man now, Taylor spends most of his free time giving back to middle and high school students.
About four years ago, Taylor and other community leaders saw a need to reach young people in the community and formed The League of Distinguished Gentlemen, a youth summit that teaches young people life skills, allowing them to learn from local leaders.
That idea grew from just reaching out to young people to reaching out to others who also have a need.
“From that youth summit, me and a couple of my friends got together, and we said, ‘Hey, why don’t we make this a permanent thing?’” recalls Taylor. “From there, we created the Gulf Coast Outreach because we saw many other areas of the community that needed touching as well, like senior citizens care and health and wellness.”
Now, Gulf Coast Outreach and Leadership helps areas across the Coast that are the most challenged. Still, teaching young people remains a primary focus of the group.
"We’re able to guide them in a positive way, whether it’s public speaking, resume building, dressing for success, entrepreneurship...all those skills, we teach these guys,” said Taylor. “It’s not just at-risk kids, it’s youth males in general that want to be a part of it and make a difference in society.
That’s the program, to put these young men on a path to success. Although they may be great in school, they can also get distracted as well. Having that mentorship, it also helps them avoid running into those types of issues.”
Issues like drugs, gang, and now, staying clean in the world of social media. Taylor says it's vitally important to keep kids on the right path online.
“I’ve seen athletes with the possibility of having a college scholarship,” Taylor said. “Because of their social media page, it destroys their scholarship opportunity. I mean, the image is important, and a lot of times people live their lives through social media. That’s something we try to help these young men avoid, don’t have anything negative on your social media page. Live your life in a positive way. Live your life with integrity as well.”
To read more about Gulf Coast Outreach and Leadership, visit their website HERE.