Success Stories – December 2014



4.1    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. 

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 ( 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, 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:

Congratulations Ashanti Branch for the positive impact on the community and for being a representative of the good MDI can do. 


4.2  Jeremy Leggett’s Journey of Inspiration

This story has been two years in the making and is not complete. In Sept 2012, I went to Louisville, KY in order to support one of my men, Ed Aponte, who was competing in his first Ironman (2.4 mile swimming, 112 mile biking, 26.2 mile running). During that event I was inspired by the dedication of not only Aponte, but for all the other athletes who never quit and were striving to be their best. It was also amazing to see the families and volunteers going to any lengths to support the athletes. It was so inspiring I said to myself, “I want to do that.”

So began a 2-year journey of early mornings at the pool, hours away from my family on the bike and miles of pavement covered on the run. This commitment pretty much consumed my life and was at times a hindrance, as just about anything else had to take a back seat at one point or another. After a few ramp-up races, I was ready to take on my first ironman race November 1 in Panama City Beach, FL. What an honor to have my wife, family and friends all there in person to see me charge off the starting gun.

Race day certainly had its challenges for which one can never fully plan. Winds at 30-40 mph and extreme rip currents forced cancellation of the swim event. I confess this had me in my head for a bit. The bike portion was long, windy and brutal.  The run was extra eventful. I was plodding along when all of a sudden the next thing I knew someone was trying to wake me up on the pavement. I had fainted at mile 20 of the run! I was not interested in the whole medical scene, so after I assured them I would be OK, I got myself together, got back up to running again and finishing strong. As I crossed the finish line, I became an Ironman! 

In the glory of a challenge conquered, I did not realize the journey was not complete.

My first Ironman was a unique experience for me, one that I would not trade for anything.  However, what stood out to me the most was something that occurred at the athlete’s welcome dinner. The charity partner stood up and presented a video illustrating the impact the athletes had caused through their fundraising efforts. They brought out some of the kids who had benefited from their efforts, and once again I was inspired.

So, after contemplating what this journey has meant to me, I decided to play in an even bigger game. I want to be a part of what can be accomplished when a determined commitment can be leveraged to help a community in need.  For my next Ironman race, I have teamed with the event’s sister charity, Save the Children(  

The last couple of years have been about me and my race – this next one will be about something greater and have a larger impact on my family, my career and especially my community. This is a very big commitment and requires getting outside of myself and seeking help. If there is one thing that I have learned from being a part of MDI is that if a man needs help, all he has to do is ask.

Every MDI man, past and present, is my man as I am his. So many times, we have served each other as we seek to cause greatness in our lives. 

So here is my request – I need your financial help to reach this goal, every little bit counts, and anything you would be willing to give will support a great organization. No minimums or maximums, and your contributions are 100 percent tax deductible. I will be honored to “carry” your contribution over the next finish line.  

If you are not able to give then there is another way you can help – please spread the word to your personal networks as we never know who, when or where people are looking for opportunities to contribute. Disposable income may be a luxury today, however we MDI Men have unlimited relationships because that is who we are – all you have to do is share this article and link (

MDI has my deepest thanks for all that has been given to me for the last 12 years – my debt to you all can never be repaid. For that I am truly grateful.

    ~ Jeremy Leggett, Southeast Region


4.3  Growing Because We Live the Mission

I am sharing with you my excitement around the growth taking place in the Mid-Atlantic Region. We are three divisions. One is substantially growing and has teams splitting; another which started not long ago as two teams at this time has 12 men in the Team Membership Training Program; the third is creating new teams in four areas where there are no present MDI teams!

Why? Because we live the mission of MDI.

How? By focusing on our team meetings, causing personal growth and success, plus inviting all men in our lives and advertising men’s teams in the community. 

   ~ Michael Landor, Mid-Atlantic Region Growth Man

4.4 Keeping Dreams Alive – A Message from the DC of Northern Nation

The opportunity (because that is what it is) to be DC of the Northern Nation could not be rushed ahead for me. It took many years to gain the confidence that I could do this job successfully. 

As a man on a team, I was captain, captain of captains, division growth manager and LD production man and trainer. I cherished all those jobs, and they taught me a lot about myself. Two main points: I tend to be indecisive and in the face of that, I still have to make decisions; my pain is the source of my power. Invaluable lessons for leadership.

My life now is dependent on my relationship with the men of MDI. I’m more connected to the men and to my purpose of being in service than at any point in my life. My message to all men out there is that when you are ready, go, with courage, after the life that you want. Regardless of what’s standing in the way, keep your dreams alive.

  ~ Diego Irizary, Mid-Atlantic Region, DC of Northern Nation


4.5   Making the “Hard” Choice to Leave a Wife

It all started on a dark, cold rainy night. Thunder boomed throughout the lands and evil rode on the air like Dennis Rodman on a cheap whore. That was the backdrop to the kickoff of the gnarliest adventure of my life – marriage to my soon-to-be ex-wife. 

I know that it’s generally accepted here at MDI that we are 100 percent responsible for everything we get ourselves into, but let me tell you: I was fully victimized by the bitch’s shit. OK, OK so I was partially responsible… I guess. All I can say is: a man needs to be really careful about where he sticks his dick anymore! 

I remember when I was a kid and I could jump in bed with some chick and life was a peach.  At some point that all changed. Life got serious. But I digress. Back to the success part of the nightmare: unique and auspicious circumstances caused the dark clouds of my life to part as holy rays of golden light beamed down from the heavens and were upon me. A sacred voice spoke to me loud and clear. This is what it said, “It’s high time you leave.” And thus it was that, on a mission from God, I parted ways with her. I am truly blessed now.

As for my ex: she has own crosses to bear.  May she also find her own mission from God.

    ~ Robert Mackintosh, San Diego Men’s Division, Southwest Region

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