Beyond his role as an extraordinary School Business Operations Manager at KIPP Vida Preparatory Academy, Maurice Buntin, is a community builder, making sure that he puts the values of his upbringing into action, and continuing to invest in the children at his school and in his community through an amazing organization he’s been involved with nearly a decade, Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles (CBMLA).
Simply put, “if our kids don’t see it, it doesn’t exist, if they don’t see people that look like them invest in them, it doesn’t exist for them,” he says.
CBMLA seeks to unite African American men to support and empower youths and advocate for the betterment of our communities. They are strongly committed to the social, emotional, academic and psychological development of African American youth, and as part of their mentorship program, CBMLA provides community leadership opportunities and prioritizes education.
The national organization was founded in 1975 by a group of police officers dedicated to reducing gang violence. Their vision is to provide at-risk youth ages 11-19 with academic support, career enrichment, and more importantly mentorship from positive Black male role models in their communities. The Concerned Black Men of Los Angeles chapter was founded in 2003 in an effort to expand the organization's work to Southern California beginning with the Welcome to Manhood Program. Buntin joined in 2013, upon relocating from his native home in Massachusetts.
As part of a Concerned Black Men’s CARES federal mentoring grant, designed to set up independent mentoring programs for young Black boys in middle schools around the country, Buntin worked tirelessly to find a school partnership for CBMLA workshops to incubate these programs in South Central LA. He sought a space to meet, a faculty advisor to help run the program, and a means to enroll young middle school boys into the program. He found a home at KIPP Scholar Academy with Founding School Leader, Tiffany Moore.
Buntin spent the next 3 years bringing CBMLA’s CARES Program to our KIPPsters, teaching our boys life skills, taking them on trips geared toward intentional learning and life-changing experiences. The CBMLA program grew beyond KIPP Scholar Academy to our KIPP Academy of Opportunity KIPPsters, working with hundreds of boys, and enlisting the support of additional Faculty Advisors in Tommy McConnell and John Coleman. And though the grant came to completion, Buntin continued and has since expanded the program even further for our KIPPsters to include two additional workshops from CBMLA: Welcome to Womanhood and an Emerging Leaders Program geared towards college-bound high school students.
In the end, Buntin believes in his mentees, even when they may have had trouble believing in themselves. He remembers fondly when one of his mentees, “a textbook student in terms of being at-risk, asked me to be his one-to-one mentor.” Buntin goes on to describe the mentee having the perception of a “defiant” young man, but born into a tough and unpredictable upbringing, not necessarily a good student, but not for lack of intellect, on the contrary, a “brilliant kid.” Young Black boys are often deemed “defiant” and therefore trouble makers if they show what would otherwise be leadership qualities in other young men. Mentees like that of Buntin’s are the very young men CBMLA seeks out and works with in effort to cultivate and hone those leadership skills. Buntin and his mentee connected and changed each other’s lives. This young man went onto a reputable high school, became the salutatorian at his graduation, and onto a renowned University.
Thank you, Maurice, for always being someone else’s hero.