SOUTH SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Nearly six years ago, Richard Nelson’s daughter Monique was caught in the crossfire during a south Sacramento barbershop shootout. And now this Sacramento father is turning tragedy into a powerful opportunity.

The young mother’s death shook up the neighborhood and her family in 2010. But through her father’s mission, the Hawk Institute has now touched the lives of dozens of young black men in need of guidance.

“It’s up to Black leadership, to step up and solve this problem, it can’t be done by just the system,” says Nelson.

Nelson had to sit through tormenting days as the six black men involved in the shooting went through trial. But that’s when he saw a real need in the community, a need to speak to our youth and to keep today’s kids from becoming tomorrow’s criminals.

“It brought hope back into my life. It made me feel like I can do anything and achieve anything, and it opened a lot of doors, that weren’t open,” says 19-year-old Hawk student Harold Grigsby.

With the help of other prominent men in the community, they began mentoring students through after-school programs and field trips focused on critical thinking skills, college and career preps, and financial literacy.

Student Brelen Page says, “I didn’t think about college, I never did, didn’t think I was smart enough, but they kept putting it in my mind. And not just a regular college, but a college I wanted to get into.”

The non-profit serves 100 students each year, even young children like 11-year-old Shamar Knox. Knox says dad left him and his mom, which made for tough times. He says he used to get into a lot of trouble, until he was introduced to the Hawk program. And the men from the program have become father figures for him.

“Now that I’m focused on my grades more, it makes me want to have dreams, to go to college and get a good job,” says Knox.

Knox dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer and attending Stanford University.

The Hawk Institute was recently awarded an anti-gang city grant, and they’re expanding.

They’ll be opening a female version of the program next month, and already 75 young women are on that waiting list

For more information about the Hawk Institute, visit: or call (916) 792-7380


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