Trent Shelby and Maurice Ways talk about the LAB program. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Westland — With young African-American boys in front of him eager to hear his story, Maurice Ways, who recently graduated from Michigan and will play his final year of college eligibility as a receiver at Cal, stood in front of a backdrop displaying the word “attitude” and its definition.
This was the inaugural LAB — Leadership, Attitude, Brotherhood — created by 22-year-olds Ways and his friend from infancy, Trent Shelby, held last Saturday night at Burning Bush International Ministries.
“We felt like we had so much to give to the younger kids, we figured we’re more powerful together than we are separate,” Ways said. “Us being brothers and growing up together, we kind of think alike. This went from being a Word document to a conversation with our guys and here we are at the LAB. It’s been amazing to go through this with my brothers. The end result is amazing.”
The purpose of the non-profit is to provide mentorship for kids from fourth to eighth grade, prime years for being shaped and guided. Ways was one of a number of speakers, who shared the message that there’s always someone there for you when you need him or her most.
“Attitude, to me personally, has a lot and everything to do with your mental and your mind,” Ways told the crowd. “Your mind is the beginning and end of everything positive and negative in your life.”
He shared his story of playing football at Michigan and the low point he found himself his sophomore year. For the first time, he reached out to someone other than his parents, Detroit pastor Marcus Ways and wife, Patricia, and tapped into his support group, of which Shelby is a charter member.
Ways was injured, he wasn’t playing, he wasn’t having any fun, and he had checked out mentally. He called Shelby in the middle of the night crying. Shelby told him their fathers had not raised them to be “quitters” and told Ways he had to figure this out on his own.
“My journey has been very, very rocky,” Ways told the kids. “I faced a lot of adversity that I didn’t understand in the moment I was going through it.”
He had an epiphany the next morning while driving to class as he had a conversation with himself.
“I said, ‘Moe, do you understand how many people already don’t believe in you? How dare you add to that number,’ ” he said.
This resonated with the crowd, who voiced agreement and clapped.
After the LAB, a woman took her two grandsons to meet Ways. She told him that since their father died, she had been praying for something like this to provide them with older role models.
“Just hearing that, we’re definitely in the right lane,” Ways said.
Shelby, who spends time in Los Angeles creating music with his siblings, said he and Ways come from a background of stability with families and friends always there for them. They want to provide that environment for as many kids as possible.
They hope to hold a second LAB before the end of this year and would like it to eventually become a national conference.
“The relationship and brotherhood that we had, we felt everybody else needs to experience that,” Shelby said. “Everybody else needs to be aware that there’s someone out there who believes in your vision just like you do that will help push you to become the best version of you.”
Marcus Ways watched proudly as his youngest child saw his vision unfold on stage last Saturday night. Marcus and Patricia are most impressed their son is a self-starter and hatched the idea to create this community service.
“That’s what I’m most proud of, that he came up with the idea himself, he and Trent, and not only that, he followed through with it,” Marcus said. “What makes me most proud is that throughout the adversity he experienced and throughout all his trials and errors in college, he took it and made something positive out of it.
“That’s what I see is the best takeaway from this is for him in his growth and maturity, he was able to somewhat at this point find some keys to life. My message to him has always been, ‘Control what you can control,’ and he has turned that into a positive for himself and for many, many others. That’s what makes me proud. He’s not finished yet. He’s on a positive trajectory, and I think there’s greater and more to come from him also in his personal, professional life and athletic life. I’m so proud of him.”
Patricia Ways said she and her husband raised their children to have dreams and aspirations and to see Maurice follow through has been a highlight.
“Extremely proud of him because he’s done a great thing,” she said. “He graduated from Michigan. He is not selfish and he decided while he was still young and still maturing and still grasping for the greatness in him, he said he would take time out to share it with some younger kids because he pays it forward in all that he does and all that he says and today was an example of that.
“We say it takes a village and he demonstrated that today. He got a village of young, successful African-American, college-educated, strong young men together and he decided he was going to deposit back into 6- and 7- and 8-year olds, and moms and dads who are here say, ‘Look at this, my child, look at the future, it can be great.’ ”
Shelby said he and Ways do not take their project lightly.
“It was a burning feeling on the inside,” he said. “It’s almost something you know is your purpose and won’t feel right until you fulfill it. It’s that gift on the inside that you have to do this. These kids are waiting for you to talk to them.
“Mentorship is so vital. Kids have to have a mentor. They have to have someone there as an older brother and sister to tell them, ‘No, that’s not the right way.’ Mentorship is so vital in today’s times, and we recognize that and we’re aware of that. It’s time to take action.”
They like the acronym, the LAB, because it’s about combining whatever ingredients needed to create a new environment for young boys who need guidance and are seeking it. Ways believes the power of positive thought and approach along with mentoring can be the chemistry needed to change kids’ paths and head them in the right direction.
“When I was going through what I was going through, I didn’t see right now,” Ways said. “I spoke to myself positively and I changed the way I looked at my situation and I surrounded myself with good people and I trusted God.
“I had my father, I had my parents in my life, I have a big brother, I had an uncle, so I had people in my life who were mentors to me but were blood-related. But outside of my quote-unquote blood, I still had other blood in my support group. I was fortunate and blessed enough to have that support system. But some kids aren’t as blessed as I am or as fortunate in having people in their lives so we decided to step up.”