MANUP Founder Helps Portsmouth Youth Beat the Odds

“If this cycle continues for years, then eventually we will have just as many positive leaders among our youth as we do gang members and inmates,” says Baker.



28-year-old Marcus Baker is the founder of the MANUP Leadership Institute (Mastering and Nurturing Unlimited Potential). He is also a father of three, Marion Baker (7), Mariah Gaskins (5), and Malique Baker (2). Baker received his Associate of Science degree from Tidewater Community College (TCC). At TCC Baker served as the SGA president at the Portsmouth Campus. While serving as president, Baker noticed that Portsmouth Public School graduates weren’t proficient in math and reading. Baker felt a sense of responsibility so he used a class project to develop the MANUP program.The program has found a new home at Cradock Middle School

“Nelson Beats The Odds” author Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and MANUP Leadership Institute

The MANUP founder shared his ‪#‎iBeatTheOdds‬ story with students from Cradock Middle School. Baker received a ton of scholarships his senior year of high school and decided to enroll in college in North Carolina. While in college Baker ended up in jail after a physical confrontation with a security guard. Once he returned to Portsmouth, VA he was shot by a stray bullet and nearly almost lost his leg. He decided to turn his life around by enrolling in Tidewater Community College for the sake of his children.

I served as a mentor to Baker while he was in Old Dominion University’s Upward Bound Program. He was one of the most challenging, strong willed teens that I’ve ever worked with. I always saw his leadership potential and today the mentee has become the mentor. Baker’s goal is to transform the group of Cradock Middle School boys into men. His organization’s mission is to “promote leadership development for young men in urban communities by focusing on academics, extracurricular activities, and community service.” Baker says that his 10-step leadership training program helps young men learn qualities that are required to be an effective leader. “I chose to create this program because I identified the need for more young leaders in our communities. We always try to lead children, as adults, when in fact most children choose to follow the actions of their peers instead of the adults in their lives.” The young men focus on values like respect, listening, etiquette, leadership and service.

MANUP Circle of Success

Baker believes that children follow their peers because they seek their acceptance and come from troubling home environments. “Broken families are a big problem in urban communities across the country. Sons are growing up without fathers and daughters without mothers,” Baker shares on his GoFundMe page. Baker is seeking support from the community because of limited funding and resources. Due to a lack of resources, Baker was forced to limit the number of male students in his program. Baker believes the program is headed in the right direction. “If this cycle continues for years, then eventually we will have just as many positive leaders among our youth as we do gang members and inmates,” says Baker.

The MANUP founder is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Norfolk State University. He plans on pursuing his master’s degree in Urban Education after he completes his bachelors. In the next 5-10 years Baker looks forward to running a youth center that will give underprivileged youth something to do with their spare time. Baker’s advice to young people, “Never give up and always believe your dreams will come true because you don’t know whose life you will impact that day.” Please support MANUP Leadership Institute by visiting their GoFundMe page.

For more inspirational stories visit our #iBeatTheOdds Facebook group page. Visit our website to purchase a copy of Nelson Beats The Odds and download our free app, mixtape and teacher’s guide.

Author: Ronnie Sidney II, MSW

Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, is a father, therapist, author, app developer, professional speaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur. He received a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014. Ronnie was raised in Tappahannock, Virginia, and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent several years in Special Education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services in 2006. Sidney has since published two books, "Nelson Beats the Odds" and "Tameka's New Dress". He also developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator.

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