BY WIL CREWS
The D.A.C. Way is a local nonprofit organization on a mission to enhance the positive development of all youth.
Aubrey Reese, founder and CEO of The D.A.C. Way, is a former Auburn High School, Murray State University and professional basketball player.
Reese remembers growing up in Auburn, living in a low-income household with his mother, who worked multiple jobs to support him and his two brothers. Reese said he considers himself fortunate to have come from such humble beginnings to enjoy a life path — through basketball — that has taken him all over the world and led to what he considers success.
But not all children from situations similar to Reese’s are as fortunate. And Reese said he recalls longing for mentorship and guidance through his adolescence.
“A lot of these kids are in situations where it’s not that they don’t want help, it’s that they don’t have it,” he said. “If we can alleviate some of the pressure off those types of parents, I think that will really benefit the kids.”
It’s for that reason that, after moving back to the Auburn area following his retirement from basketball, Reese started the local youth basketball group AR Elite.
“My goal is to go back and help those kids and let them know there is people out there like you — that come from here and are successful or can be successful,” Reese said. “But just looking at the landscape that I come from, there are not a lot of positive, male, Black figures who can relate to the kids on a different type of level. I think it’s important for those kids to see some people like that.”
Finding success with AR Elite, Reese began to think about ways to reach more children outside of basketball.
“Just doing that, and thinking how can I help more kids outside of the game of basketball … that’s why I talked to people about starting a nonprofit,” Reese said.
Eventually, Reese started The D.A.C. Way. While the nonprofit’s focus is improving the overall life skills of the youth of Lee and Macon County, Reese still claims his time as a ball player inspired the organization’s mission.
“Everything I learned through my basketball career is pretty much the foundation of The D.A.C. Way,” Reese said.
The organization is focused on creating opportunities for change and mentorship anchored in its core values represented by the acronym — D.A.C. — in the name: discipline, accountability and commitment.
“When you look at your everyday life, that is what it is all about,” Reese said.
The D.A.C. Way’s principal goals are: keeping local children safe, helping them develop confidence, responsible decision-making and critical life skills, as well as making them feel supported.
The organization plans to achieve these goals through after-school programs, promoting good nutritional habits and physical activity, as well as providing job skills and readiness training for those in the juvenile system.
The nonprofit recently launched its after-school program — The D.A.C. Way 101— and a Youth Incarceration Preventative Program (YIPP) to further its attempts at helping local youth.
“Both programs are needed,” Reese said. “We want to curb some of the violence. We are trying to enhance and empower kids through mentorship, leadership, education and through life and social skills … just so they can have a better chance of being successful.”
Reese said that The D.A.C. Way also works with the local nonprofit Our House, which is run by Renee Waldrop and has similar goals to Reese’s nonprofit.
“Shout out to Renee,” Reese said. “They have taken us under their wing as a new nonprofit and kind of showed us the way. We kind of partner with them.”
Through his partnership with Our House, Reese meets with a group of children every Wednesday night at a nearby church basketball gym to play ball, but also to fellowship with and provide a positive outlet for the attending youth.
“Each time the kids come over they are more talkative,” Reese said. “They just like coming there to have a place to go … and at the end of the night, I give them pizza. Those days, I see myself in some of those kids. And I didn’t have nothing like that.”
Reese acknowledges that there are many area nonrofits working toward similar goals as The D.A.C. Way. But he said he’s excited about the two new programs which he hopes will help The D.A.C. Way continue its mission to enhance the positive development of all youth.
“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “I just want to fill in the gaps where the help is most needed. So many kids need help. Of course, we just want to just get out and make a difference.”
To get involved or to learn more about The D.A.C. Way, visit its website www.thedacway.org/.