Brandon Buckley has saved and changed many lives in more than a decade of work in afterschool programs at George Washington High School.
Brandon Buckley has changed and saved a countless number of lives in just over a decade of working in afterschool programs at George Washington High School. As a staff member with the 21st Century Community Learning Center team, he proved himself to be exceptional at connecting with students. When 21st Century funding ended, and Mary Rigg earned two back-to-back Full Service Community School grants, it elevated Brandon to a leadership role for the first time and allowed him to focus on the needs of students, now with experience as a seasoned mentor and a new perspective for long term goals.
Buckley’s work has had its successes – he has hundreds of letters from former students who praise his work with them – and also its challenges: the loss of 10 students to gun violence during the pandemic has added to the emotional stress of an already difficult time. Last year, he lost his business partner to COVID just as the program entered its most challenging period. He has emerged from these challenges and heartbreaks as a stronger and more capable leader. Through it all, Brandon is humble and deeply committed to his work. You can find him in school and on the basketball court with students on weekends and during the holidays. He is their cheerleader when credit recovery tests their focus and willpower. And when they have nobody else to turn to, his students turn to him, knowing that he will always be their advocate and supporter.
Buckley has a very serious dedication to the youth of Indianapolis, but he also has a not-so-serious side to him. So, you may know Brandon Buckley for his impact on our community, but you also may know him from his viral Tik Toks. Buckley is an icon for the youth, on and offline. He created the HUB, a nonprofit organization that works to support inner city youth. His passion to support the youth of his community is incredible and it comes from a deep understanding of what they need, and desire, from a mentor.
“…in order to get the kids to understand you and really rock with you and show you love, you kind of got to get to their level to kind of get an understanding of their lives.” Buckley said, “Because, you know, that’s what you’re there for.”
By getting to know the kids he works with on this deeper level, he becomes a better advocate for them as well. He is able to support their entrepreneurial dreams, while also encouraging them to learn more about financial literacy and balancing life skills for the best chance to succeed.
The kids have helped Buckley as well, pushing him to be creative and ultimately leading him to his success on Tik Tok.
All of Buckley’s success has not been without obstacles. During 2020, he also experienced great loss. His philanthropic partner passed due to COVID, and not long after, 3 of his students lost their lives as well. While his loss was great, he did not let his grief stop him from continuing his work. He took this loss and created an opportunity for not only himself — but also for his community — to grow.
“When I lost the kids, I kind of just was like… what can I do to kind of show my culture that we must work together.” Buckley said, “So, I created the movement called Melanin House of Kingz. And with that movement … I wanted to show them if you could get a group of guys together, strong black men, …we can create bigger platforms and bigger things.”
The movement can be found on Buckley’s Tik Tok account, or just by searching the hashtag, #MelaninHouseofKingz on the Tik Tok app. While he continues working on his social media influence, he also maintains his support of his students at the nonprofit.
“It’s been a journey, but I absolutely love the kids.” Buckley said, “I absolutely love what I do. And just through this pandemic has taught me just to appreciate life for one, and just live in the moment and live the best life that you can live, because you never know.”
So, how did Buckley get here? Well, he started out as a participant of a nonprofit himself. This led him to realizing his calling to give back to the community. When combined with the passion he inherited from his family, he was always set out to make a difference.
For example, in high school, he created a club with a few of his friends called, “Class Act and Distinguished Gentlemen”. This club existed to stand out from the rest of the school. Every Friday, they would dress up in formal wear and eventually the club took off and they gained enough support to begin hosting service events. This club still exists at his former high school.
“To this day, Class Act and Distinguished Gentlemen is still there, which is pretty, pretty, pretty crazy.” Buckley said, “To see 10 plus years later, that it’s still there and kids are still going through the program, is amazing.”
Buckley had a supportive family from the start, his entrepreneurial spirit was passed down from his father and grandfather, both of whom own their own businesses. His love for children, however, was fostered by his mother. The work Buckley does with his students continues to influence his life.
“Once I started working with the kids and seeing what the kids were dealing with, it led me to become even more humble.” Buckley said, “Because it was like, dang, when I was a kid, I didn’t have to go to that. I didn’t have to go through, you know, not having any lights, not having no warm water, things like that. So [the kids] helped me get a better understanding that was like, I gotta help.”
Despite his amazing work for the community, Buckley faces some backlash from those within his own culture. While he uses it to continue pushing himself, he still feels pressures placed on him as a black man.
“A lot of people feel like you have to look a certain way, or you have to present yourself a certain way to be successful in this.” Buckley said, “Like, I’m not your normal African American guy, like I still wear Jordan’s, I still rock the nice fits, and I still can fit in. And I’m a young face. But also, I’m here to change the culture and allow kids to be who they are and be able to grow, and not cancel them or put them in a certain box to where they can’t achieve their goals.”
Buckley also uses this backlash and this pressure to promote unity within his culture as well. He places a lot of emphasis on providing opportunities for black people to look out for each other and care for each other. He believes that by working together, anything can happen.
“What I’m really proud of is just that I am able to rise above everything in my life, and not care about what others think and still be able to inspire youth, to inspire adults, and to inspire different people and to never give up on your dreams no matter what a person says or what a person does.” Buckley said.
He wants to inspire one simple lesson to those reading this article.
“Never ever give up no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter the struggle, no matter what.” Buckley said.
Through his work, Buckley wants to create change and create a better future for youth in our community. He leaves us with one final message,
“I just hope that I can be an influence and a story to be inspirational to others.”
Brandon Buckley has dedicated his life to helping others. Through his work, he wants to create a better path for everyone. Be sure to follow him on social media and consider reaching out to the HUB to see how you too, can make a difference in the lives of inner-city youth.
Quotes have been slightly edited for clarity