WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's a one-of-a-kind program that South Florida parents say is changing lives.
Faith's Place Center for Arts and Education runs the Marching Lions, and you can call Noble Lockhart-Mays their den mother.
"I wanted to help save these black boys lives," said Lockhart-Mays.
Seven years ago, Lockhart-Mays quit her teaching job and took in her first 12 cubs, giving them a safe space where kids could learn more about the arts.
"Out there it's not what you think it is," said one member of the Marching Lions. "Out there it's like a whole another jungle."
"You have to compete and you have to challenge to either survive or you'll be killed," said another student. "Killed or be killed."
The program has grown from 12 to 200 students from 16 area schools. From ballet to strings and percussion, Jordan Mongo said it's an opportunity he'd thought he'd never have.
"It feels more like a home and a family because if I wasn't here, I would probably be on the streets somewhere or probably around the wrong crowd," said Mongo.
"Certain friends were trying to make them take that left and God laid on my heart, call Ms. Mays and I'm like, okay what if she's too full?" said Sonia Gilbert, Mongo's mother. This voice said call Ms. Mays and right when I called her she picked it up. Before I could finish she said bring the babies on. If that's not an angel I can't tell you what is."
"I want people to know that these children are beautiful," said Lockhart-Mays. "They may look rutty on the outside, but they are so beautiful. They make me laugh. They bring me joy because I don't believe in happiness. I want joy because that's eternal.."
Lockhart-Mays said she's focused on raising money for the Marching Lions' spring tour which lets these students perform and visit colleges around the nation.
Their goal is to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. on Monday to perform. After that, they'll go to the Music USA festival in Orlando, then to the Northeast Jamboree in Jacksonville.
The Marching Lions are $4,000 short of their $40,000 goal, which would allow all of the students can go on the tour.
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