SACRAMENTO — When Maliek Young stepped on the basketball court recently at Golden 1 Center wearing a sweater from Morehouse, it was clear about where he is going to college in the future.

Young was presented with a Black History Month’s Dream All-Star Award from the Sacramento Kings during the team’s game against the Miami Heat.

“I feel amazing, blessed, and I am happy to be here. I am loving it,” Young told The OBSERVER before receiving the award. “From where I am now, from where I started, I wouldn’t have thought I had made it this far.”

Young, a senior at West Campus High School, received the recognition mainly because of the Men’s and Women’s Leadership Academy, MWLA, a youth program in the Sac City Unified School District.

MWLA is SCUSD’s effort to intentionally combat the school-to-prison-pipeline for underserved low-income students of color by creating supportive and productive learning environments.

West Campus High School student Maliek Young, left, waves to the crowd at Golden 1 Center after receiving a Black History Month All-Star Award from the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 8, 2019. Young’s mentor, Marcus Strother, right, presented him with the honors.
(OBSERVER photo by Russell Stiger Jr.)

Young, who will be attending Morehouse College in Atlanta in the fall, was in attendance at the Kings’ game with Marcus Strother, SCUSD’s Youth Development director. Strother, also a member of Brother 2 Brother Mentoring Group, helps run MWLA. Young is wholeheartedly appreciative of Strother’s efforts in working with young men and women.

“He’s my mentor,” Young said of Strother. “I really appreciate everything he has done for me. His program, the Leadership Academy, has done a lot for my life.”

The targeted audience for the Leadership Academy is girls and boys in the ninth through 12th grades who have multiple risk factors, including low attendance, low academic performance and high suspension rates.

The growth of the Men’s and Women’s Leadership Academy has been fueled by student interest and advocacy. The focus of MWLA is to create and foster supportive learning environments through a framework of social justice youth development and with an active collaboration of District administrators, school counselors, certificated teachers, and youth.

“It’s been a life-saver and I don’t say that lightly,” Young said. “This academy took me in when I was at the lowest point of my life and brought me up to where I am. If it wasn’t for the staff, I don’t think I would be going to college. They saw worth in me that I didn’t see in myself.”

MWLA currently operates on 12 campuses throughout the District including Pacific Elementary, Woodbine Elementary, H. W. Harkness Elementary, Sam Brannon Middle School, Will C. Wood Middle School, and American Legion High School.

Rounding out the list are C. K. McClatchy High School, Health Professions High School, Hiram Johnson High School, Rosemont High School, Sacramento Charter High School, and West Campus High School.

It is not a surprise that the Sacramento Kings would honor students in the MWLA program and the individuals who help them prosper. The program is so inspiring that Young intends to become a criminal justice attorney and a child psychologist.

“I want to be a criminal justice attorney because I feel some of our brothers are railroaded because they don’t have the funds to get an actual lawyer,” Young said. “I also want to be a child psychologist because if you can break that cycle (school-to-prison pipeline) early, instill in children that they are great and they are loved, they are not just going to be another statistic.”

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

OBSERVER video footage by Russell Stiger Jr.