News Release

The Sounds of Victory: 10 Years of Student Success

2019 The deep thud of a basketball joins a growing choir of doors opening, high fives clapping, and feet climbing stairs to the second floor of the Victory Project’s building. Computer screens warm as opening backpacks reveal the day’s homework. Downstairs in the kitchen, a microwave hums as tennis shoes squeak against the tile floor. Behind a small table now covered with notebooks and headphones, a collection of photos sit on the wall next to the kitchen’s entryway. With names written in Sharpie—Zyon, Edwin, Marque, and others—each photo boasts the face of a young man sporting a polo with the Victory Project logo. The clock in the kitchen says 3 PM as students begin working on their homework. For ten years now, the sound of students has filled Victory Project’s hallways, and Monnie Bush welcomes it.

As founder and CEO of Victory Project (VP), Monnie can connect a voice with a name from his office. His office is unlike most CEOs’ offices: It’s not secluded away from the foot traffic and interruptions; instead, it’s between the front door and the kitchen, next to all the action. It’s common to find young men congregating around his desk and on his retro-orange couch. One might think this would distract him from his duties, but Monnie is exactly where he wants to be: where the students are. Along his office walls hang pictures of VP students from years past, spanning back to 2009. Monnie will tell you a lot has happened in that time. And Since 2009, one thing has remained the same: Victory Project has offered an alternative to the streets for America’s youth.

During his years as a local police officer, Monnie witnessed the patterns that led to many young men being imprisoned. He knew God wanted more for them. So, after his tenure as a public servant, Monnie began the process of starting a nonprofit to engage area youth and equip them to choose a different future than what the streets offered. For more than eighteen months, Monnie and a small team conducted research and interviews with families of court-involved youth as well as with court officials, learning what patterns preceded most young men being incarcerated and how those patterns could be disrupted and replaced with habits that lead to their mastering self-awareness, self-sufficiency, and selfless service. And in that collaborative and curious space, Victory Project was born. 

Since then, VP has been guided by the distinct mission presented in Matthew 5:14, “You’re here to be light bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept; we’re going public with this as public as a city on a hill” (MSG translation). This took shape in VP by helping area youth leave destructive lifestyles to find independence and opportunity through learning marketable skills that help them compete in the workforce. And, for ten years now, they’ve done it without any government funding. “That’s one of the key distinctions of Victory Project,” shared Monnie. “[Not being government funded] means we can do the work of undoing poverty’s effects the way God has called us to, particularly through our curriculum of education, entrepreneurship, and enlightenment.”

“The 3 E’s,” as they’re called, have shaped Victory Project’s understanding of success in young men’s lives. VP’s curriculum guides its staff to help students graduate high school, possess marketable skills and trades, and understand who they are in light of God’s love. When a student possesses these things—informed by a caring community of staff, volunteers, and peers—Victory Project calls that “success.”

A key facet to that success is VP’s micro-business, Victory Improvement Projects (VIP). This business is operated by VP and supplies students with real-world business experiences, exposing them to financial responsibility and the value of hard work while launching their employment histories. As VIP team members, Victory Project students are real-time employees with real-time paychecks becoming real-time leaders. And they don’t just mow a few lawns; numerous residential and commercial properties are clients of VIP. The business has grown to be so successful that they’ve hired a business manager and a crew lead, both of whom were interviewed by VP students. 

When The Victory Project began, their principal group of students was court-involved. In the following years, VP staff learned that more youth would need—and want—VP’s opportunities. “Initially, everyone we worked with was court-involved…. Now, our student demographics have changed to include students from many backgrounds, but who are still ‘disengaged youth,’ which means they’re maybe good students, but they aren’t involved in anything after school,” shared Monnie. As the student demographics expanded and numbers grew, VP’s physical space needed to accommodate its growth. So, they found a new home. But before changing facilities, VP staff asked students and families for their thoughts. How did they feel about the move? Would students’ bus routes be more difficult now? And when families and VP staff together saw the collective potential of the move, Victory Project transitioned locations from downtown Dayton to Old North Dayton. To ensure they maintained financial freedom, Victory Project quickly paid off the mortgage. They’ve since purchased an adjacent lot as well for further expansion.

Despite a change in address, Victory Project continued to grow. Students from Victory Project told their friends and others about it. And word continued to spread. Victory Project call this their own “heliotropic effect,” when others desire to be a part of it because of the effort and excellence of those involved. And because of this, VP students wanted to be at VP. Why? Because they were trusted and given responsibility by its staff. “We have families involved in maintaining accountability for their students, but at the end of the day, it’s the student who chooses to be here,” says Monnie. “We work to cultivate trust with every student. They learn to know what they have here, which means they know what can be lost.” 

Just like the staff, each VP student has a door code allowing them access into the building, which is open six days a week except Sundays and Christmas. Why? “Because the streets don’t close,” shared Monnie. And because of that, students know they can come to the building— rain or shine, after school, and during the summer—to choose productive, engaging options not available in their homes. That may seem like an inordinate amount of staff hours to maintain, but Monnie and the VP staff believe that staying available and accessible as often as they are ensures students succeed. This ideal is prominently displayed throughout VP’s building as a simple equation: Authenticity + Consistency + Proximity = Opportunity.

And because of those opportunities, Victory Project has seen countless young men accomplish great things—they’ve graduated high school, joined the military, found stable careers, graduated from colleges, started families with new socioeconomic trajectories, and some have even become VP volunteers and staff. 

As Monnie and the staff look to the next ten years, they’re eager to continue growing and seeing God transform students’ lives. And not just in their Old North Dayton building. They look to begin other Victory Projects in other Dayton neighborhoods, and throughout the U.S.

For everything that makes Victory Project what it has been over the past ten years, one thing stands out: the incredible young men whose photos and names sit next to the kitchen entryway, whose voices and laughter fill the halls nearly every afternoon and evening. Those young men, by choosing to improve their futures, have chosen a path less traveled by their peers. And because of God’s work through the Victory Project, that path has seen more travelers and will continue to see more through the next ten years.

“It’s easier to build strong children than fix broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

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