With words of affirmation and gestures of love, League of Legacy founder Justin Lockett is lifting the spirits of a group of young boys.
He is helping guide the trajectory of their lives, before someone with bad intentions has the opportunity to do the same.
"What we try to do is stand in the gap,” Lockett said. “A lot of the boys in my program don't have male figures in their lives. Some of them do but not consistent.
“What we want to do is make sure we show them that positive male role model and teach them about good decision making."
Lockett developed the program after his brother was shot and killed. Jarrod Lockett died of a gunshot wound to the head on Dec. 15, 2012, the day he was set to graduate from UAH.
Justin Lockett walked at graduation in his brother’s place.
"That motivation came the day that the people who killed my brother were sentenced,” he said. “I watched the courtroom and I thought I was supposed to feel better by seeing them go off to prison and I didn't.
“I thought to myself, everyone in this courtroom lost. My family lost, my brother is not coming back. They are going off to prison so what can we do?"
Justin Lockett started the Jarrod Michael Lockett Foundation in 2013 to speak out against gun violence and in 2017 The League of Legacy Mentoring Program was established. Currently, there are 19 boys enrolled in the League of Legacy Mentoring Program. The group has grown through word of mouth and it is open to all boys in the community. They range in age from 12 to 18 years old and they meet every Thursday.
Thirteen-year-old Kennari Glasper has been part of the group for six years.
"This has really impacted my life,” Kennari said. “This has helped me come out of a shell I use to be in. Now I can talk to other boys that are my age. I get to go places I have never gone before and it has just been a very good ride."
The list of what the young men learn is a long one.
"We've taught them how to cook, we've taught them how to iron, we've taught them how to properly bathe themselves,” Lockett said.
“Every year in February we go on a Black History trip, we had etiquette classes, teaching them which is the salad fork, the dinner fork, which way to pass your food."
The boys also learn about conflict resolution and how to solve problems through non-violence.
Kameron Evans, 13, has been part of the group for a year and half. He said he has changed both personally and in the classroom since joining the mentor group.
"Better grades. He texts me every day usually. Tells me, have a great day at school, so it makes me feel better about myself every day," said Kameron.
According the nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, firearms are the second-leading cause of death among children and teenagers in Alabama.
In Alabama, an average of 68 children and teens die by guns every year, and 60 percent of these deaths are homicides.
In the US, 58 percent of all gun deaths among children and teenagers are homicides.
Lockett said his goal was to create an organization that took a stand against gun violence by teaching young boys values so they don't want to pick up a gun in the first place.