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At the end of the day, it’s not about your possessions or even what you’ve achieved – it’s about the impact you’ve had on the lives of others. For the BLOQ parq (tBp) this is more than a frame of mind, it is a way of being. When it coms to giving back, we don’t just want to produce the ripple effect; we want to make waves. Enhancing a sense of community, lifting one another up and joining forces to ensure we are all able to thrive is at the forefront of the tBp mission.

Toe Tag Monologues Second Chance Job Skills Program

Mentoring At-Risk Youth into the Workforce

Byron StringerI remember walking into Hobby Lobby to check on a custom-made shadow box they were making to display a handmade beaded dashiki from South Africa. While waiting for them to bring it out, I saw two huge pictures of some familiar faces. They were the founders of McDonald’s, but the pictures were a collage of thousands of little pictures. I asked whose pictures were these. An older, professional-looking gentleman said they were his. He asked if I recognized these men, and I said, “Of course, McDonald’s was my first job; they are the founders of McDonald’s.” He said, “You’re right!” These pictures were larger than pictures most people frame. I was thinking; he’s going to be surprised when he sees how much it’s going to cost – this is where I met Ron Smith.

I forget how long we talked, but it ended with him inviting me to lunch across the parking lot at the McDonald’s he owned. I thought it was impressive for a black man to own a McDonald’s Restaurant; later, I found out he owned thirteen. Our first meeting was in his office, where I could see the two newly framed pictures. I sat down and, the first thing Ron said was, “I looked on your website and social media and, what you created, is nothing less than amazing!” Ron said, “I can see you taking the Toe Tag Monologues all over the world.” Little did I know that I was sitting across from a man who not only believed in me, but believed in the vision. Ron Smith wasn’t just a mentor; he became my friend.

Ron’s first time seeing the Toe Tag Monologues live was during a monthly Life Skills Workshop we conducted in the Juvenile Detention Center. Youth locked up for everything from petty larceny to drug charges did their best at performing the monologues. Our curriculum requires the youth to complete the workbook, write an essay and, perform one of the monologues. They weren’t Broadway actors, but they put their hearts into the performances. I found it gives youth the courage to start talking about their own lives.  It is a bridge for two generations to connect and hear each other.

“I can see you taking the Toe Tag Monologues all over the world.”
– Ron Smith

Ron stood before these young individuals and spoke from his heart; he talked about how he was bullied at their age.  Ron told a story filled with struggles and triumphs. Every young person in that room could relate to Ron’s story. That’s when it happened. One of the youths said, “Hey, mister, when I get out, will you give me a job?” Ron said, “I wouldn’t have a problem giving any one of you a job!” You had to be there to see their faces. They couldn’t believe that while they were at their lowest point in life, locked up, wearing jail clothes, this man was willing to give them a job. This moment was the birth of the Second Chance Job Skills Program. We have conducted a 5-day job skills workshop that culminated with Ron Smith and his team looking into the faces of youth who everyone else gave up on and say, “You’re hired!” Spontaneous tears, prayers of thanks, smiles and, hearts overwhelmed with gratitude fill the room. What they feel in that moment is what I felt when Ron told me the Toe Tag Monologues was nothing less than amazing. Having someone see you and the potential you possess is like someone telling you, “Keep flapping your wings, kid, because one day you will fly.”

Toe Tag Monologues

Giving youth a second chance is about more than putting smiles on their faces. It directly impacts the recidivism rate among our troubled youth. It impacts families across Las Vegas and soon, across this country. It shows youth that you really can go to college, and McDonald’s will help you. It gives youth hope, and that’s not something you can go to the grocery store and buy. God sets up meetings in random places like Hobby Lobby, to ensure you will bump into what looks like regular people but are real heroes who have hearts of gold.

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