Marcus NiBlack-The Orlando Times
Black History Month Spotlight On...
Marcus NiBlack: Leesburg’s Compassionate Advocate For Youth
BY LOUIS C. WARD
LEESBURG - “I don’t want to l work with this kid, he’s a big problem.”
“He’s a gang member.”
“He has a filthy mouth and is disrespectful.”
Problematic youth, who are mostly a product of their environment and home training, are never turned away or refused help when they show up at the Leesburg Parks and Recreation Center and see Marcus NiBlack, the recreation supervisor, who understands that “at risk” youth need assistance like any other youth navigating the troubled waters of life being a teenager.
Working with youth since he was 17 years old, Marcus, married and a father of five kids, knows “kids aren’t born bad. Most just need a change of environment and someone to help them to be successful in life.”
With heartfelt compassion for all youth whether they’re troubled, focused, or just need a positive role model, Marcus does his all to inspire in them some form of hope.
“Those kids need resources and access,” says Marcus, who uses sports to help youth get focused in life. “We cannot isolate kids. Whatever kid walks up to your door, you should want to help him. No matter what.”
Marcus has been pretty much successful for his almost 30 years of giving kids hope. There are many kids who he has put a basketball, football or baseball in their hands and they used that sport to get a degree. Now adults, many of them, thriving and productive, call him periodically to just say thank you and show their appreciation for what he has done in their lives.
Starting at the Boys and Girls Club when he was attending Community college in Florida, Marcus’s supervisor saw his gift for working with youth and developing sports program. They felt he had what they were looking for and they made him athletic director when he was only 18 years old. A college student, Marcus could only work for them during his summer breaks.
Marcus oversees many youths who play baseball, basketball or football in its Pop Warner Program at the Recreation Center. However, he remembers a time when he saw that many cities had a recreation center for their youth and Leesburg didn’t. He began to contemplate the positive impact of a recreation center for youth in his community.
He hooked up with a close friend, John Christian, and together they worked hard and pushed for a recreation center in Leesburg, which was finally approved and built. And of course, Marcus became the athletic supervisor.
The recreation center now bears John Christian name, who has been a Leesburg city Commissioner for more than 10 years. Still working together to make life better, Commissioner Christian said, “You meet very few people who end up fulfilling their purpose and destiny in life. Mark exemplifies that and is a perfect candidate to lead our city’s youth department.”
Despite the success, Marcus believes there’s still a lot of youth who aren’t being touched, helped, and inspired. “Many of them aren’t into sports, but they are just as talented in their God given gifts, which can be drawing, acting, writing or something else”, says Marcus.
Some of the best writers, artists and talented men are sitting in prison, because they grew up in a bad neighborhood. Marcus feels a bad neighborhood often produces bad youth, who become disrespectful and don’t know how to communicate. “So, what they do is,” Marcus said, “communicate only with people who are just like them, and they become deeper involved in unproductive lifestyles.”
Often, their parents are also a product of their environment and aren’t equipped to help them because they just don’t know how. Parents must invest in their kids, believe in them, support them, keep them focused and spend quality time with them.
According to Marcus, who’s kids are focused and productive, with his daughter receiving a full paid scholarship to West Virginia College, where she will play basketball, a son that one of the best athletes in the state, and older siblings who are employed and independent, “the best way to deal with kids is to work with the concept: It takes a village to raise a child. The community needs to encourage, support and inspire them, opening their minds to be bigger and better and use their God given gifts.”
Despite all the support, inspiration and encouragement that we can provide for our youth, Marcus knows the reality of making our youth productive. He knows that the lack of money is a hindrance to purchasing resources for and access to our youth. When there’s no place for our youth to go after school, what are their chances of making it in life? We need a facility for our youth to attend where they can develop other talents such as art, drama, and photography. Then, Marcus says,” we need people to teach our youth how to communicate, be respectful, and be a better person.”
Marcus “fell in love with working with kids and using sports to make youth productive.” He’s still doing his thing, bringing resources, access, support, and encouragement to them. He hopes to see a Teen Center built next to the recreation center, where they will be a place for the kids all day, every day.