Activism | October 28th, 2022
Kevin Warren: Making a Difference in the Lives of Tallahassee’s Youth
By: Kylan Guerrier
I got invited to play basketball at a local alternative high school. Before we played, we had to circle around, introduce ourselves, and say what our life goal was. It was strange because games usually start with two people picking teams. And I was questioning why it was at a detention center. But that was the first day I met Kevin Warren, a pillar in his community.
Kevin Warren is 36 years old, has been married for 14 years, and is a father to four children.
Kevin is the founder and executive director of The Life Center.
“It’s an acronym: love, identity, foundation, and encouragement.”
TLC aims to mentor young adults in Tallahassee. They provide a space for young adults to thrive, seek resources, and allow them to cultivate their dreams. TLC partnered with Leon County to speak at middle and high schools about solutions for gun violence.
Kevin and his staff also partnered with a local alternative high school to allow teens and young adults to play basketball every Wednesday at 4 p.m., one of the several ways The Life Center is doing its part to keep the youth out of harm’s way.
Kevin’s story begins in Saginaw, Michigan. He comes from a two-parent household where he says his parents tried to protect him, but he did have to grow up fast. Kevin credits his hometown for helping him become creative so that he can leave an intense environment. Kevin watched someone die at the age of 9 and lost two close friends in middle school to gun violence.
“I was scared and wanted to leave, so I put my head in my books and basketball. I ended up graduating high school near the top of my class.”
Post-high school is where turmoil started to surround Kevin’s life. He earned a partial scholarship to play basketball at Florida State University but lost it due to a bad attitude. Losing his scholarship at FSU promoted him to further his education at Florida A&M University.
“I rapidly declined, got a hold of drugs and alcohol,” Kevin says. In Saginaw, we don’t have clubs. I quickly got into that. After my first year, I lost my scholarship and had to go back home. I started doing everything that I saw, toting pistols and selling dope. A year later, I was planning to rob a TJ-Maxx with a friend. The day before the planned robbery, my mother comes downstairs and gave me a one-way ticket to Florida without having an idea of my plans. She said she noticed that I had been depressed. She saved my life.”
Kevin would face homelessness when he made his way back to Tallahassee. He went from couch hopping to sleeping on the streets but was able to overcome his circumstances.
“What made me endure that was knowing that I was better. I knew that was not me. I never bought into what I had to do to survive that life.”
Kevin’s life changed when he found out his then-girlfriend was pregnant.
While excelling in information technology, Kevin would take trips back home to visit his childhood teachers. One of them asked Kevin to speak to their class after seeing how he chronicled his story on Facebook. Kevin’s story touched the children. On his plane rides, he wrote and published a book. His career as a public speaker grew as he was called to speak at more schools. Kevin decided to take a severance package from his job, leave it, and start The Life Group.
“My hometown school told me that I couldn’t come back to speak because the kids responded to me with too much emotion,” Kevin says. “They would cry. The school’s response was to ask me to not come back instead of dealing with the issues the kids faced and how their hearts felt. That was my final straw. I knew then that I had to build something. The vision of a center came to me. It all came together during COVID after I couldn’t travel anymore. The kids and the families weren’t able to get the resources.”
The Life Center was created with funding from the Florida Department of Children and Families for a one-year pilot. From there, Kevin and his staff were awarded a three-year grant for $1.2 million to build the program. The Life Center has two locations, one in Tallahassee and the other in Kevin’s hometown–where they use the sport of boxing to help rehabilitate juveniles.
Eventually, Kevin wants to step away from the day-to-day of running TLC.
“I want to be able to speak on a platform where I can challenge the societal norms. Last year I started ‘The Black Elephant Studios,’ that’s a space where we have uncomfortable conversations that can advance the culture.”