TUPELO • Tyson Quinn has always wanted to work with children.
Originally from West Point, Quinn has lived in Tupelo since he was nine. As deputy director of maintenance for Parks and Recreation and president and founder of the mentoring program Real Men Stand Up. Quinn said he and Josh Williams, a local youth minister at Lane Chapel CME Church, thought kids needed to see people within their city who had worked their way up.
“We just share the vision that we have, that love for our young people and we just want to see them do the best that they can do and become the best,” Quinn said.
Quinn has learned the importance of working with kids at an earlier age in order to make an impact. The organization began in 2015 in partnership with the Police Athletic Team, focusing on ages 12 and up. The organization now works with young boys in third through fifth grade and hosts monthly meetings at Lee Acres.The core group of mentees is 20 kids, and meet 30 to 40 at each of the local schools they visit once a month. The number of mentors, who are leaders in the community, varies from three to eight.
Thanks to a grant from Kiwanis, every Thursday they host an after school program at Lee Acres where they bring in influential speakers, games, and complete community service such as making Valentine’s Day gifts to bring to senior living facilities.
Since starting, the program has been able to expand to have additional partnerships, such as a community garden partnership with Keep Tupelo Beautiful, garnered support from the city, plan events, trips, and other activities.
Quinn considers mentoring his purpose and uses it as his way to give back to the community. He names Fred Hadley, Coach Larry Harman, Don Lewis and Pat Gillard as his own personal mentors. His hope is for Real Men Stand Up to become a family. He wants to inspire others to also mentor the youth and would like Real Men Stand Up to one day have its own facility to offer resources and encourage various career paths. The organization currently has a sister group, Young Women of Integrity, and is always seeking more mentors.
“I’m only working with a select group of kids, but if there were four or five of me ... that’s that many more kids that we’re able to save,” Quinn said.
Growing up with his three sisters, stepdad and mother, Quinn said he was used to going without but didn’t notice because his mother raised him off love. Once he became a father, however, he decided to make changes. Quinn’s son is now a freshman in college, while his daughter is in sixth grade. He thanks his wife for being supportive and helping take up the slack at home, as well as his sisters and mother for still helping anytime he needs help.
After five years, Quinn said the organization is still hitting its stride and waiting to see the long term impacts. So far, they have seen kids set goals, change behavior, become more respectful and improve their grades. The group is not formally funded, instead operating off grants they receive.
Quinn said ultimately, the program is not “for him” but to show young men they don’t have to turn to the streets and encourage them to stay and build in Tupelo.
“I want them to be the police officers. I want them to be the firemen. I hope a mayoral candidate or a City Council member can come out of the kids that I’m working with,” Quinn said. “A better Tupelo is what I’m shooting for.”