My Childhood Mentoring Story: I Didn’t Want To Die In The Streets…

ORLANDO – My Childhood Mentoring Story Part I, is a series introducing the founders of the youth mentoring organizations participating in the inaugural NW Orlando Mentor & Volunteer Recruitment Fair on Thursday, October 26th at Ivey Lane Park Recreation Center from 5p.m. to 7pm.

The second Q&A in this series features Mr. Marcus Brown, the founder and executive director of iHope Mentoring Inc. The mission of iHope Mentoring is to provide inner-city youth with an opportunity to grow inside of an environment that promotes academic achievement, self-awareness, social acceptance and responsibility, and a healthy lifestyle.

Growing up in “Mercy Drive,” Brown was exposed to the ills of inner-city life at a very young age. As a juvenile delinquent, he went from being the neighborhood’s drug dealer to becoming the neighborhood’s “Hope” dealer. Escaping Orlando to attend Morgan State University was the fresh start he needed. Today, he is a loving husband, doting dad, and minister of the gospel.  In this Q&A, Brown will shed light on the power of mentorship.

MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MU): Who was your mentor as a teen or young adult?

Marcus Brown (MB): Well, indirectly it was my older sister.

MU: How did she most influence your life?

MB: At an early age my sister was always very driven. She built a solid foundation for herself outside of our home. Back then I was watching and taking notes, she inspired me to always want more and to go out and earn it!

MU: Why did you choose to mentor youth?

MB: When I was younger, I became what I needed… so I thought. That’s why I can relate to our youth today because I once experienced all that they are experiencing now.

MU: What was a turning point or defining moment that changed the course of your life?

MB: Actually, it was going broke and taking the same risk. There’s a quote by Einstein that says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Looking back my life was insane and I didn’t want to die in the streets and/or go to prison because of my poor choices.

MU: What was the hardest lesson you learned early on?

MB: Life doesn’t owe me anything just because I’m here; to wake up with a sound mind and the use of my faculties is a gift from God.

MU: What words of wisdom did your mentor share with you that you are still applying today?

MB: Never give up despite what it looks like.

MU: What makes your organization unique or sets you apart from other at-risk youth mentoring programs?

MB: At iHope Mentoring, we are really honest, and transparent with our young men. Meeting them where they are and showering them with the love of Christ. Most importantly, we provide a safe space where their voices are not silenced but valued and heard.

MU: How has your community perspective changed or shifted after volunteering or working with at-risk youth?

MB: I know firsthand how your environment can shape you. I am a product of a violent and crime-stricken area. I wanted to change the narrative of how others coming from that same neighborhood are viewed, especially young Black men.

MU: In six words or less, describe the overall significance of mentoring at-risk youth.

MB: Shaping a future that needs us most!

About iHope Mentoring, Inc.: iHope Mentoring Inc. (IHM) is a 501c3 male youth mentoring program based in Orlando, Florida. Founded in 2018, iHope Mentoring set out to form an organization that assists many inner-city youth as they matriculate into young men. The group ranges from 10-17 years of age; with operating hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 pm to 8 pm. For more information, visit and follow us @ihopementoring

About MAN UP Mentoring, Inc: MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP) is community-based 501c (3) organization and an affiliate of My Brother’s Keeper Orlando primarily serving at-risk youth ages 11 through completion of high school or the equivalent across Metro Orlando, with a focus on delinquency prevention and intervention by providing social, educational and mentoring services. Established in 2014 by Orlando natives, brother and sister duo Christopher and Samantha Wallace. Currently, it is managed by an executive director, contractors, and a full-time staff of volunteers. MAN UP is overseen by a Board of Directors with more than 150 years of law enforcement and civilian experience, as well as advisors from the Orange County Public-school System and social services. Visit