Brandon Scarborough saw a need for positive male role models for African-American young men in the Akron area so he stepped up.

In 2015, he founded DREAMS (Developing Responsible Extraordinary African-American Males for Success) Academy, an eight-week mentoring program for African-American males ages 7 to 15. Students are exposed to activities and discussions about life skills, problem-solving and career guidance.

DREAMS Academy, was awarded a $2,000 Akron Community Foundation Millennium Fund for Children grant this year. The millennium fund gave a total of $43,750 to 31 children’s programs throughout Greater Akron. Along with the academy, recipients include the Akron Children's Museum and the Ronald McDonald House Akron.

In his application for the grant, Scarborough said "reports say the number of prisons in the U.S. is determined by test scores of students in the third grade." Through DREAMS Academy, he aims to raise those test scores in the greater Akron area "by educating our young men who have traditionally been labeled by their limited education" and  to help them become "well educated, productive members of society."

During the program, students learn from African-American male professionals who work in a multitude of fields and occupations. 

Consisting of a team of board members — which include his mother Lynette Scarborough — and the "DREAMS Mom Squad" — mothers who volunteer to help with planning and activities, the academy focuses on teaching African-American boys etiquette, team building and financial literacy. Since the program's start, students have learned about community leadership, politics and law and entrepreneurship.

"We try to cover topics that most likely schools aren't covering in the course of the day," Scarborough, 38, said.

While the main program is tailored toward young African-American males, the academy also has an eight-week music and media program open to children and adults, males and females to study photography, beat-making, disc jockeying and studio recording.

The academy has three locations: its Music and Media Center on Florida Avenue, House of the Lord Youth Center on Diagonal Road and the I Promise School on West Market Street.

When Scarborough heard that the program received the grant, he was grateful.

"This will help relieve some financial burdens," he said. "This will also help give the kids more opportunities and experiences."

Some of the young men reflected on their time in the academy as they celebrated at a holiday party held earlier this month during the last week of the program's fall session.

Jaedon Thornton, whose been in the program for four years, said he's learned how to be a "better gentleman."

The 14-year-old said he wasn't sure what to expect when his mom first told him about DREAMS.

After doing some research, Jaedon decided to give it a try.

"I was scared at first," said Thornton. "It was like the first day of school. I didn't know anyone."

"I really like the program," he said.

Niles Nuru, 11, has done the program for two years. The Miller South sixth grade student felt the same as Thornton when he first attended DREAMS.

"I was nervous, but I adjusted after two weeks," he said.

"I got the chance to learn about running a business," he said. "It's so cool to learn about new opportunities."

With the grant, Scarborough is hopeful that the program will continue to flourish and help more African-American males.

"[We] hope to continue what we've been doing and be able to build upon what we've already done," he said.