Mention “inner-city youth” to some and you’re likely to get a variety of unflattering responses: Thugs. Gangstas. Punks. Tarik Glenn calls them “scholars,” and if you met Tarik, you would not argue with him. The 6’5”, 315 pound former NFL All-Pro offensive lineman has a way of convincing you that within every street kid is a child with tremendous potential. In 2001, four years into his career with the Indianapolis Colts, Tarik, with his wife Maya, formedDream Alive to serve at-risk students in the Indianapolis public school system.
Tarik’s commitment to inner-city youth comes from his faith in Christ and his own experience growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Oakland, California. With the help of mentors and recreational programs that kept him out of trouble, Tarik earned a football scholarship to the University of California where he was a four-year letterman. Drafted in the first round by the Colts, he quickly became a powerful force and durable performer—in his ten year career he only missed six games, unheard of at his position. Offensive linemen may not be household names, but they protect those who are—just ask Peyton Manning what it was like to have Tarik between him and a rushing linebacker intent on inflicting a little tough love.
In a way, Tarik is still in the protection business—working to help kids deal with the challenges of urban life. The kids Dream Alive works with come from unstable families who struggle daily with poverty and all that goes with it. Drugs and alcohol. Violent crime. Limited or no access to health care. Most do not receive three meals a day and frequently fall behind in school. But by matching them up with college-aged mentors, Dream Alive gives these teenagers a platform not just to receive, but to serve others and become contributing members of society.
Tarik traveled to Ethiopia earlier this year on behalf of Bethany Christian Services to see the effects of Bethany’s One Family ministry. Like Dream Alive, Bethany’s goal is to empower families to become self-sufficient through job training and micro-loans to help them start their own businesses. In Tarik’s words, the trip was an “emotional roller coaster” as he saw both the joy of families getting back on their feet, and the heartbreak of seeing the magnitude of the need there. You can listen to our conversation here as Tarik talks about his “scholars,” his trip to Ethiopia, and even his thoughts on who’s going to win the Super Bowl this year.