'It just gives me butterflies': York City nonprofit to help youth draws closer to launch

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Tavon Parker's dream of a program to help underprivileged children will soon become a reality.

The York City resident's nonprofit, The Advantage Program, launches in June — and applications to be part of his inaugural group opened on Monday. 

"I'm just very excited to get it started," Parker said. "I'm looking forward to seeing the kids' engagement with the program."

The year-round program for boys will first focus on summer activities. Parker said he purposefully wanted to start The Advantage Program after the school year ended so it could offer an outlet for children who don't have summer plans.

"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, a 2013 graduate of William Penn Senior High School, 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 has said.

After serving his time, he became a motivational speaker. This year, Parker switched gears to focus on the nonprofit he created.

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

Jordan Boatwright (left) and Tavon Parker (right) pose for a photo during The Advantage Program's fundraiser on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Tina Locurto

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

June will begin with lessons in finance and dressing for a formal event. At the end of the month, Parker and the program's mentors will take children to a local five-star restaurant.

To start, The Advantage Program will accept between 10 and 20 kids. Individuals can enroll a child or recommend someone for the program by visiting the organization's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/The-Advantage-Program-101209568615641.

Though some children might be eager to come to weekly meetings, Parker said he realizes others might not be so keen on participation.

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

That's where The Advantage Program's mentors come in.

"What we want to do is shift that mindset and expose them to different mindsets," Parker said, adding that peer engagement will be a huge part of the program's success.

So far, The Advantage Program has 15 mentors signed up to take part. 

One of the mentors, Parker's cousin Brandon Parker, got involved so he could help students 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."

The Advantage Program fundraises for their nonprofit on Sunday, April 25, 2021. The program will guide children on weekly topics such as financial literacy, community involvement, entrepreneurship and personal hygiene. Tina Locurto photo.

The Advantage Program aims to help their mentees not only graduate from high school but also develop post-school plans to achieve their goals — whether that's going to college, attending a trade school or building a business.

With a few weeks to go until The Advantage Program launches, Parker and his team of volunteers have been working to bolster the nonprofit's funding.

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.

"I honestly believe it will be a lifelong journey between the mentor and the mentee," Parker said. "It just gives me butterflies."

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

The Advantage Program fundraises for their nonprofit on Sunday, April 25, 2021. The program will guide children on weekly topics such as financial literacy, community involvement, entrepreneurship and personal hygiene. Tina Locurto photo.