A Life’s Calling

 A Life’s Calling

Victory Project founder provides a foundation of hard work, faith and love for young men

Jim Bucher

Victory: An act of defeating an enemy.

Monnie Bush is on a one-man mission and has the credentials for it. The former officer with Riverside and ranger with Five Rivers MetroParks would observe the daily happenings on the mean streets and was inspired to do his part.

“Growing up in a blue-collar family with Appalachian roots I found my home life, while not perfect, was intact and had parents who strongly emphasized hard work, education and faith,” says Bush.

While serving the community Bush says this wasn’t always the case.

“I discovered many families did not have this firm foundation to lean on. In fact, it was not unusual to be called to a home where a family crisis, usually a single mother, had reached the point where the parent would ask the police to discipline or remove their child from the home. I was saddened to see families turning to the social and justice systems as a surrogate parent and knew this was only a short-term solution,” Bush says.

In 2007, Bush began his research and development period. This included learning about other nonprofits serving the community and meeting with juvenile court officials to see how best to help reduce recidivism. He often credits meetings with juveniles locked up and their parents with being the most influential in creating the Victory Project.

The Victory Project is a 501(c)3 faith-based, nonprofit organization that provides an after-school mentoring program for disengaged young men. It can currently serve up to 45 youth at a time in its facility at 409 Troy St. in Dayton.

“One of our main goals is help young people discover the life God intended. And we start by avoiding the ‘Pillars of Poverty,’ which, according to a 2003 Brookings Institute study, are dropping out of high school, having a criminal history and a child before marriage,” says Bush, Victory Project’s founder and CEO.    

The Victory Project’s 3E curriculum offers weekly, individualized tutoring sessions, study hall and homework assistance. The staff and volunteers work closely with parents and teachers to develop a steady message of love and accountability between school, home and the Victory Project.

Thanks to parents and teachers, this is greatly influenced by staff accessing the student’s digital school records for daily grades, assignments and attendance. These classes introduce the young men to general life, financial leadership, spiritual and character-building skills.

“Also, (Victory Project) teaches entrepreneurship with a micro-enterprise called Victory Improvement Project. Victory Project youth, alongside their business mentors, operate the business while earning money, building their employment history and learning work ethics. The Victory Improvement Project provides landscaping, residential and commercial construction and hauling services.

Participation in workdays requires that the members maintain the expectations listed in Victory Improvement Project’s contract that each student signs and agrees to fulfill. When all weekly expectations are fulfilled then the student is eligible to work. At Victory Project, work is the reward, says Bush.

“We teach and model life skills and moral character, recreational and faith-based activities and encourage the students to attend a local church on Sunday,” he says.

Bush also saw many young men whose lives were extremely inconsistent; food, housing, and even family members changed often. He saw that an intense, all-encompassing intervention approach was needed where young men and mentors could spend 25 to 40 hours a week together.

This would establish a relationship-based program, where love and accountability would be distributed on an individual and purposeful basis. Bush put it this way, “(Victory Project) is a greenhouse. It’s a place where a young life can be cultivated, fed, watered and even pruned. Over time roots begin to grow deep and strengthen. So, when it’s time to transplant outside this young person has a strong foundation of hard work, faith and love to survive life’s changing seasons and the storms which will inevitably come.”
So far Victory Project has mentored more than 200 young men in 10 years. Each back story is unique, but one sticks out.

“One of (Victory Project’s) very first students was an enforcer for a local gang, ‘GC’. We met during the research and development period of (Victory Project). GC was doing two years for being involved in a shooting. After being released he joined (Victory Project) and eventually become our first full-time employee. Now, he’s married with a beautiful family and has a highly valued skill trade career,” Bush says.

It works with no government assistance.

“(Victory Project) is funded exclusively through private and corporate donation and grants. We need ‘Shareholders,’ these are monthly contributors who provide operational support to keep (Victory Project) open. We are currently running a campaign to close a $60,000 funding gap. Also, we need advocates to share our story with family, friends, churches, foundations and businesses,” he says.

The mission isn’t accomplished, but Bush and Victory Project are making a dent. “I’d like to see in our next 10 years to double in size, having over 60 students. There will be a west campus and other campuses around the Tristate area.”  

Chipping away one young man at a time.