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IYT Brother and Mentor, Keishaun Turner, Begins Next Chapter as an Elk Grove Community Leader

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Keishaun Turner and his family have been a part of IYT since our founding back in 2013. He and his brothers were one of IYT’s first members, and Keishaun has served as a mentor fellow since 2019. Keishaun truly embodies IYT’s cycle of service, going from brother to mentor. His decision to give back to a younger generation is a key part of what we believe it will take to close the college opportunity gap for young men of color.

Keishaun’s AmeriCorps Service Year ended at the close of last month and with that, the next chapter of his career began. Working for Elk Grove Unified School Districts' Family and Community Engagement office as a Liaison, Keishaun will provide specialized support to middle and elementary students within the foster care system.

Given IYT provides programs and services starting in middle school and going all the way through college, it can take a while to show what the significance and importance of that kind of support and love truly looks like. Before leaving, Keishaun reflected on his time with IYTand penned an exceptionally touching spanning his entire program experience, starting with a chance encounter in 7th grade with “two light skinned dudes in suits.” We see this authentic testimonial as giving as good a picture as one can get on what happens when we invest in our young men.

Goodbye for Now By Keishaun Turner

To my second family,

Everyone always wants their parting words to be something profound and prolific. I want mine to be intentional and caring. With that, I give you goodbye for now. But not forever.

When I moved to Sacramento in the summer of 2007 with my mother, my older brother Thaddeus, and my little brother Eugene, I knew few names and faces outside of the ones I lived with. Fast forward to my 7th grade year at Samuel Jackman Middle School. These two crazy light skinned dudes with suits told my older brother they would help get him to college. And once he was there, I was next.

So now I would spend my Saturdays at IYT’s Valley High School site, doing homework I wasn’t doing during the week. In this room on Saturdays, I would become the youngest member of the brotherhood. A brotherhood that included people who would look out for me for the rest of my life. Adam, Phillip, Zach, and the rest of what was just 17 Black and Brown boys who wanted a chance to go to college. But those Saturdays weren’t just homework, bagels, and mustiness. Those Saturdays were sport debates, test prep, flashcards, presentations, bonding, laughter, and love. Saturdays became family reunions. IYT became my second family. Making the most simple question you could ask somebody the most complicated ever, “how many brothers and sisters do you have?”

I could go on and on about the old days and ask you to dive into my past, but that's what podcasts and books are for. The point of this letter is to say goodbye. But to say goodbye, you have to first acknowledge where you’ve come from. I come from the hard work and vision of Michael Casper and Michael Lynch. From my hardworking and loving mother, Bonnie Brown, South Central LA, and South Sacramento. So as I say goodbye to you all, I also say thank you. Thank you to the mentors and staff for your continued support and ears as you’ve created space for me to grow and be myself. You’ve allowed me to teach, support, lead, and heal all in your presence. I am the flowers of the seeds you watered back when you first met me. We always talk about not seeing your hard work pay off till years later. Who I am now is because of all of you.

Keishaun presents at the Capitol Building for IYT's Public Policy Internship in 2019

To our donors who joined us last month and to the donors that were around back when Casper worked at the bank and Lynch was just at the Capitol, thank you. Your support in all forms allowed me to work not only for Improve Your Tomorrow but in Assembly member Jones-Sawyer’s office; Mayor Steinberg's office, for the Faculty Association for California Community Colleges, as a teaching fellow for Breakthrough Sacramento, and serve as a Mental Health Ambassador for the Foundation for California Community Colleges. Our shared passion for our young men and your financial support allowed me to do so many things and show so many people the potential of a Black boy from South Sacramento. So thank you and I hope to work with you again in new ways.

Lastly, to Michael Lynch and Michael Casper, thank you and I love you. You became the co-founders of an organization that most wouldn’t think would be possible. But were also co-fathers to my brothers and I. You showed me a world completely different from fights and basketball. I got the chance to meet Kamala Harris, Doris Matsui, Cecile Richards, Marcus Strother, Josh Fryday, Julius Thomas, Logan Green, world leaders and ambassadors. You flew me to D.C. to represent IYT’s work and commitment to bettering the lives of the brothers we serve. Connections and memories that will last a lifetime. The work you two have put in allowed me to watch my older brother actually go to college like you said. Of the 10 plus schools I applied to, I only was denied by 1. The rest all said yes to me. You took me to Stanford, Sac State, UC Davis, Fresno State, University of the Pacific, UC Berkeley. Helped my mother put clothes on our back, food in our mouths, and a roof over our head. Saturday study halls were so much more than you know. It was one less time my mother had to worry about feeding three Black boys who could clean a buffet out if we tried. And boy did we try. Because of you two, my mother went back and graduated college with her B.A. in healthcare administration. Something she’d been wanting and trying to do since before IYT existed. You made it happen. For just about a decade, you have been in my family’s life and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t take it all for granted. Words aren’t enough to express my appreciation for you both, but they will have to do for now.

So thank you for the college trips, helping find my best friends, my second family, any job I wanted, the camping trips, the food. You advocated for me when I was at my lowest point and showed me that my dreams haven’t went away, but took a new form. For all of these things, I thank you again and again and again. As you two watched me grow up, I got to watch you both do the same. Stepping into fatherhood, hitting the 30’s, and expanding what started as a vision into a statewide movement. A team of volunteers turned into people who oversee campuses and departments. You are not only so many kids' dreams, but you are my reality. I am blessed to have been a part of this organization as it raised me to be who I am today. Thank you all who have been a part of my journey.

With Love and Gratitude,

Keishaun B. Turner.


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