Ashanti Branch – Moving Ever Forward for the Youth
After months of collecting “success stories” for the Legacy Magazine, the publisher and editor chose Ashanti Branch of the Western Region as our MDI Success of the Year, and Man of the Year.
Born and raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, California, Branch took the road less traveled to get out of the ghetto and attended one of California’s premier engineering colleges. In 2004 as a first year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. Today, its impact is growing and growing.
The Ever Forward Club (www.everforwardclub.org) is a youth development and mentoring program whose mission is to create communities of students who are setting and achieving their personal goals inside and outside the classroom. We create safe spaces for young men to come together and build brotherhood while supporting each other to heal from the challenges of life. Ever Forward builds communities where war stories become medicine stories.
There is an African Proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” The past five months have been an example of that quote in action for the club. In July the Full Circle Fund selected The Ever Forward Club as one of their grant partners for 2014. This honor provided The Ever Forward Club with $12,000, but more importantly a team of eight professionals from a various backgrounds who would help Ever Forward work on a project or a collection of projects to move it forward as it works to bring the club to scale and serve more youth.
With the help of the Full Circle Fund Team, the club successfully completed an Indiegogo fundraising campaign to raise $30k in 30 days.
Says Branch, “This was a very exciting, challenging and fulfilling lesson of the power of crowd-funding as a tool to connect people from all over the country toward a common cause.”
These new resources will provide Ever Forward Club a way to create a training program and to begin to expand programs to new schools around the Bay Area. The Full Circle Fund team presented Ever Forward Club with a landscape analysis of other organizations that are doing similar work with youth in the Bay Area in order to make connections with other Bay Area organizations for potential partnerships.
In October The Ever Forward Club presented at the 13th Annual Teachers for Social Justice Conference, with four of their young men presenting to a standing-room-only of 34 educators, social workers and non-profit workers.
On December 20, 2014 the Ever Forward Club will be taking some of their young men on a once in lifetime experience: to spend the night on the famous island of Alcatraz.
If that is not enough, The Ever Forward Club’s work will be featured in a new documentary by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and the team that brought you Miss Representation, called “The Mask You Live In,” of which the trailer can be seen here: http://youtu.be/hc45-ptHMxo
Congratulations Ashanti Branch for the positive impact on the community and for being a representative of the good MDI can do.