York City man aims to help youth through after-school nonprofit

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
A group of York-area men, who are planning a youth-building nonprofit, pose outside William Penn High School Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. They are, from left, Brandon Parker, Da'Vaughn White, Tavon Parker, Jordan Boatwright and LaQuinn Thompson. The five board members are launching the Advantage Program next June. Three of the men – Da'Vaughn, Brandon and Tavon – are William Penn High School graduates. Bill Kalina photo

A York City man who went from selling drugs to motivational speaking now aims to launch a not-for-profit designed to teach kids valuable skills and expose them to life outside of York County. 

Tavon Parker, a 2013 William Penn Senior High School graduate, intends to introduce The Advantage Program to students at his alma mater first. 

"We want to give kids the advantages we didn't necessarily have growing up," Parker said. "There's a lot of people that can benefit from my story."

Parker was accepted to Millersville University on a basketball scholarship. His grades slipped, however, and he was forced to drop out after losing his scholarship.

He returned to York City, fell into the "wrong crowd" and began selling drugs — later going to jail for 14 months from 2017 to 2018, Parker said.

After serving his time, he became a motivational speaker. Most recently, he spoke with the York High Lady Bearcats basketball team. This year, Parker switched gears to focus on his nonprofit.

At the start of 2020, Parker began laying the framework for The Advantage Program. He could begin meeting with social workers and guidance counselors in York City School District in March in an effort to boost his effort, and launch the initiative in June. 

He said he hopes to first start connecting with students from William Penn.

In his vision, participating students would attend weekly meetings on topics such as financial literacy, community involvement, entrepreneurship and personal hygiene. 

Each month, an overall theme will guide weekly lessons and culminate in a trip outside of York County. 

For example, June's theme would be called "formal affair" and include lessons in finance and dressing for a formal event. At the end of the month, participating students would bring their families along and dress up for a formal evening party.

Tavon Parker, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, and a group of York-area men are launching a youth-building nonprofit, the Advantage Program. Bill Kalina photo

Parker said he would have the leverage to recruit students, as an alumnus of William Penn and an acquaintance of several of the school's social workers and guidance counselors.

At the start of the program, officials with The Advantage Program say, they hope to enlist 10 to 12 students.

Parker's cousin, Brandon, got involved as the nonprofit's treasurer so he could mentor students and help them realize the goals they want to reach. 

"When people don't get outside of York or Pennsylvania, you limit yourself to this finite place," Brandon Parker said. "You don't realize how much you may grow going to a new city."

Brandon Parker said he was fortunate to have traveled outside of Pennsylvania when he was growing up, which helped him grow as a person and reach his own goals.

Now, he said, he wants this opportunity for other children. 

Tavon Parker is seeking 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the state for his organization and said that application could be approved this month. 

In its first year, The Advantage Program has a budget of $50,000. That will cover travel expenses for monthly trips and an academic scholarship awarded to one of the students in the program, Parker said.

Funding will be sourced through donations from businesses, organizations and grants.

Brandon Parker is looking for new volunteers to assist with the program. Individuals interested can contact him at tpinspireandmotivate@aol.com.

He hopes his nonprofit will help kids discover how they can continue post-high school education, whether through college, a trade school or an academic internship.

"It's just really about having the opportunity," Parker said. "Not a lot of kids have these opportunities."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.