BALTIMORE — Brendan Lee is a Baltimore City resident with a passion for improving the well being of young people. He receiveda NAACP Hometown Hero Award on January 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Of 28 Baltimoreans who were nominated, Lee received the most votes.
His fiancée, China McClanahan nominated the 27-year-old restorative practice facilitator, who works at City Springs School. He has a reputation for going above and beyond the call of duty to support students in Baltimore. Gospel singer Erica Campbell of Mary Mary presented Lee with the NAACP Hometown Hero Award, along with fellow winners from 15 other states.
“I want to change more of our kids and lost souls looking for guidance. I would take that over an award any day,” Lee said humbly.
Lee trains teachers to build better relationships with their students. After suspension rates decreased at City Springs School, Lee was selected as key staff member of the year by the State of Maryland in 2010. He is also a motivational speaker and mentor. Lee has spoken at the White House on behalf of children with incarcerated parents. He also visits the roughest places, seeking to spark hope. Lee’s ability to relate to challenges in adolescents dates back to his formative years, when he was growing up in the Park Heights area of Baltimore City.
“I lost my grandmother (Lula Bell Lee) and father (Robert Lee) to alcoholism,” Lee said.
Lee was twelve years old when his father died. At the age of fifteen, Lee was a passenger in a car when the driver, who was also his best friend, was fatally shot after gambling.
“It was the first time I had to learn the hard way that it is important to be where you are supposed to be,” Lee said, recalling the day he hooked school. “When I was growing up, I was labeled a troubled kid. People said, ‘This kid will be dead or in jail before he turns 21,’ because of the path that I was on.”
A year later, his girlfriend was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Lee managed to graduate from Francis M. Wood Alternative High School. Afterwards, he became homeless after an arrest stemming from a domestic disturbance with his stepfather. Lee lived out of a bag while visiting houses of friends.
“The turning point for me was when I was shot when I was 22 years old. I almost lost my life due to gun violence. One of the bullets had missed my heart by less than centimeters. I could feel the life slowly leaving my body. I was thinking about those last moments. Is this it?”
Lee was resuscitated at the University of Maryland Medical Center. After rehabilitation, Lee visited Empowerment Temple. He heard Jamal Bryant delivering a thought-provoking message. Lee realized that he had a bigger calling. He reportedly left street life behind, selecting God as fuel to change his life.
Pieces started falling into place through Lee’s work as a paraeducator. Rhonda Richetta, the one person Lee said believed in him, offered employment when he needed to get on his feet. Lee accepted her offer. He quickly fell in love with working with youth.
“I started a mentoring group and [started] teaching them different things like how to tie a tie and grooming. That’s when Ms. Richetta saw my gift as far as how I was able to help the young men be successful. She winded up sending me to a school in Pennsylvania called International Institute for Restorative Practices. When I got certified, I brought it back to City Springs. That is how I became the Restorative Practices Facilitator,” Lee said.
Lee still strives to reach youth who are often considered unreachable. For the next six weeks, 92Q is granting Lee a chance to contribute to Motivational Mondays. The radio station will repost his uplifting video message on Instagram.
“I just want to encourage more pastors and more community members to collaborate with me and give me more opportunities to do what I did at City Springs,” Lee said. “I am a believer that as long as a person has breath in their body, they still have a chance to change. If every time the good people say, ‘I’m not coming back to the hood,’ who is going to go back and get them?”
Follow Lee on Instagram via #thisisgodswork or Facebook at www.facebook.com/brendan.lee.9235199.