Cavaurion had no idea when he signed up for a trip to Washington, D.C. that the outing would change the trajectory of his life. That’s when he first met Marlon Haywood, executive director of Urban Male Network, an Englewood nonprofit that provides mentoring and networking opportunities. “He’s a great guy, and since then we’ve had a close relationship,” Cavaurion says.

His experiences at Urban Male Network have ranged from participating in group conversations about the challenges faced by Black men in America, to joining a group analysis of the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar’s latest CD, to attending guest talks from men who work in a wide range of occupations, including one who sells cryptocurrency. Marlon says many of the participants in his nonprofit don’t have fathers who are active in their lives, so they look to the group’s mentors for guidance and support.

“It changed me a lot,” says Cavaurion, 18, who grew up on the Near West Side and has participated in the program for the last four years. “After going through this program with Marlon, what I noticed is that when he does things for people I see smiles on their faces. It made me think about what I could do one day for kids who don’t have a lot.” Cavaurion was particularly impressed by what he saw during the college tours that the group took. “Marlon has lots of connections and he shares them with all of us to help us succeed,” he says.

In August, he became the first member of his family to go away to college. He is enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign where he is studying on a full scholarship. “Marlon has inspired me,” Cavaurion says. “Once I get out of college I want to create a program like his. He made me want to give back because I see the problems in my community. I was blessed to meet someone like him and I want to be that person for someone else.”

“We try to provide a well-rounded experience, including academic and career support.”

Marlon Haywood

Urban Male Network’s mission is to help young men of color overcome barriers that can inhibit their success and to present male role models who have achieved personal, professional and academic success. “We try to provide a well-rounded experience, including academic and career support,” Marlon says. The nonprofit also creates a safe space for young men to come together in a neighborhood where gun violence is not uncommon and children are not always able to play safely outside. “It’s important to have opportunities for youth to be kids and enjoy themselves,” Marlon says. “With the support of McCormick funding we have been able to do that for kids like Cavaurion and serve as positive role models.”

Not everyone has an equal shot at the American Dream. Fortunately, there are dedicated people across Chicagoland who are committed to making sure every child and family has opportunities to achieve their goals. With your support, we can create new possibilities and help make countless dreams come true. With support from donors like you, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation invests in organizations on Chicago’s South and West sides improving the lives of children and families each and every day.