JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Thomas Burke remembers his days as a Jackson correction officer working in cell block two, and the feeling he got every time he saw the bars close in on another young person’s life.
“I was crushed. There was nothing but failure and I just started thinking about how the system has been failing these youth,” said Burke.
It was then that he knew he had to fight for change. Burke started the group Save our Youth. It set him on a new path fighting for a brighter future for Jackson’s younger generation.
“It’s not just a program. it’s a personal relationship being built,” said Burke.
Today that effort is easy to see. He’s built a non-profit that gives kids access to dozens of programs and opportunities. Everything from jobs and community therapists and youth support groups to music, physical fitness, and even robotics, all for free.
“This is my mission this is my life’s work,” said Burke.
For the kids, it’s the support that’s making all the difference.
“Even though there are hard times at home he will help me,” said Save our Youth participant, Si-mya Smith
For mothers like Latoyia Dempsey. Burke’s impact has given her relief and her kids something to look forward to.
“It’s been a huge impact with everything that goes on nowadays just to have someone like Thomas in your kid’s life, and he’s in my life too. When I have my rough days he’s also there to encourage me and uplift me and I can appreciate that,” said Smith.
Burke says he hopes to carry on the mission as long as he can and leave a legacy with one goal in mind.
“Understand that they can be whatever they want to be,” said Burke. “I see nothing but love and hope and aspiration and it makes me feel good that Save Our Youth the mission is being fulfilled.”