Mareace Rutley, a senior taking classes through the WAY program is ½ credit away from receiving his diploma. He started out as a participant in the Future Leaders Summer Academy back in 2012. Mentor2Youth conducts this academy annually where they train high school students to be mentors and facilitate a youth camp at Parkridge Community Center. Mareace eventually became a lead mentor for the program. Many of his peers saw the potential in Mareace. It took him several experiences to realize this for himself…
Mareace remembers growing up as a young boy in Sycamore Meadows (normally called the “Green”), a low-income housing apartment complex known over the years for being a place gangs, drugs and violence existed. With his father not in the picture, his mom worked 2-3 jobs to stay afloat while his grandmother helped raise him.
Living in an unstable environment, Mareace moved several times during his childhood years. Even through all these challenges and obstacles, he was still able to press forward. That all changed one day. “I saw a man who was shot in killed right in my backyard”. This had a traumatizing effect.
“There is not really much out here, in life. All I would see is drug dealers. All I saw was the streets”.
A shift in his behavior and mentality emerged during his adolescent years in middle school. As Mareace explains it, “I had a lot of insecurities…anger issues, I feel that stemmed from my childhood.” He took on a fighter’s mentality and morphed from being bullied to becoming the bully. With this mentality came popularity and a new crowd of people, although he still continued to excel in school. Mareace was awarded the athlete of the year and placed on honor roll during his 8th grade year.
This new crowd of friends brought on new experiences entering high school. What started out as a group of friends hanging out at the movies and going skating turned into a gang.
“Fighting and partying became the norm.” “Getting shot at was a normal thing. I didn’t care at that point in my life, I didn’t care if I lived or died.”
During 10th grade he was persuaded to join a college prep program called “Upward Bound.” At first, he saw this as a monthly paycheck, but after getting more involved, it turned his life around. “I didn’t just see the streets anymore- I had a whole new perspective.” This is where he came in contact with Mentor2Youth and the Future Leaders Summer Academy. “I still remember this days so clearly; when I went to go mentor the kids…to see how happy they were for us to be there. I was happy that they looked up to me.” Every time he looked out the windows of Parkridge, he would remember where he got shot at and realized he had to make a change to set an example for his mentees, knowing that if they saw him doing something, they would think it was okay. “I did a 360.” Mareace started getting involved more in the community, performing better in school, and found employment.
“If it wasn’t for Mentor2Youth, I don’t think I would have ever had the realization that there is hope out there. [Mentor2Youth] gives kids hope and believes in them, not a lot of kids have that around here [Ypsilanti]. I know I did not have it for a long time.” Now that Mareace has begun to realize his potential he has entrepreneurial aspirations, he’s “ going to move to Alabama, finish college, start my own auto mechanic shop. Hopefully I will live life to the fullest.”
Now Mareace has hope, and as a role model and volunteer, can provide that to others from his community. Now he can help others realize their potential.