PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Spring Break out at the Lantana Airport, surrounded by planes and open air.
There’s no other place kids like 6-year-old Tristan Blake would rather be and he’s dressed the part.
“He has completely taken on the persona of the Tuskegee airman, he thinks that he’s one of them he just walks around and call himself Tuskegee Tristan," said his mom, Carol Blake.
It’s all part of the KOP mentoring program. “K,” is for knowledge, “O,” is for opportunity , and “P,” is for prosperity— a winning combination.
”Priceless. We can spend time in the classroom and talk to them about the plane," said founder C. Ron Allen, "but for them to come out and actually touch it, for them to actually go up and fly in one of these is priceless.”
The nontraditional mentorship program already worked for Boynton Beach High School graduate and current Embry Riddle Aeronautical University student Dwight Marshall, who is now passing on the torch to the younger generation.
“As I see a change in how they act and how they carry themselves and how they approach the world,” said Marshall, "it does resonate with me and I think about it all the time, I don’t want to be a bad influence to them."
And it’s working, Tristan’s older brother has been hitting the books.
“I like it enough to actually try to get my pilots license before I’m 18,” said Derron Bell said.
The program aims to teach the future leaders of South Florida that the sky is really the limit. Allen said for him it’s more than enough motivation.
“When I see young people walk across that stage knowing that the opportunities were not there for them before,” he said, “and we were able to make that happen for them.”
Patience, life skills and mentoring are all part of the right opportunities keeping these kids on an upward trajectory.