Surprise Squad helps founder of local nonprofit that empowers at-risk youth to become leaders

Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 7:08 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – The Surprise Squad and community partners set out to help a man who works to save students from St. Louis’ violent streets.

Marlon Wharton is the CEO and founder of Gentlemen of Vision. The nonprofit organization empowers at-risk males to become leaders in their schools and communities. Through his mentoring, almost 100% of those young men go to college and are becoming leaders in the community.

“Marlon works for the Riverview Gardens School District as a counselor. The students there love him because he listens, he’s not just a counselor, he’s someone they can depend on. If they need a ride home, he’ll give it, if they need food to eat, he’s going to supply them with a meal,” said Sylva Wilson, a friend of Marlon.

“Nothing can stop this man when he is on a mission, and his mission is to save our youth,” said Chris Randall, Executive Director of Gentleman of Vision.

Chris told News 4 that Marlon is the “backbone of the best parts of the community.” Marlon travels across the area to pick up and drop off kids.

“He’s traveling from one side of town to the other. He’s driving back and forth to Parkway or Creve Coeur and then he’s driving all the way to North County, back to the city to drop off a kid whose parent didn’t even think to pick him up or take him to practice, and he’s making it all happen on his dime, on his own vehicle, on his own four wheels.

On July 4th, during America’s Birthday Parade, Gentleman of Vision’s step team was set to perform. The Surprise Squad took the opportunity to partner with the Scott Credit Union, Weber Chevrolet and the V.P. organization to give Marlon a car.

After the car was presented to Marlon, the inspirational leader found out that CarShield included a service contract for anything that goes wrong with the vehicle. The Surprise Squad also presented Marlon with more than $1,000 in gift cards to places such as McDonald’s, First Watch and On The Run.

CBS This Morning Co-Host Nate Burleson gave Marlon a personalized shoutout as well.

“Marlon, I am so inspired by what you are doing for young men in St. Louis,” said Burleson. “We see you, we recognize what you are doing in your community, and I am so grateful to be a small part of honoring someone so deserving. My friends at KMOV are going to take care of you but I wanted to take the time to personally thank you. You are changing lives every day through Gentlemen of Vision. I know that you have done this through great sacrifice, personal sacrifice, day in and day out. You are making a difference inside and our of the classroom by making sure kids have an education you are changing the trajectory of their lives. Not only that, you are a positive and strong African American male mentor and role model for everyone in your community. Keep building brotherhood like this in St. Louis.”

Click here to learn more or to donate to Gentlemen of Vision.

Watch the Nine PBS Special: Gentleman of Vision here.