2004 Recording Arts graduate Antonio Shelton recently traveled to Kabey Fo, Niger with Educate Tomorrow, a Miami non-profit foundation designed to support the educational goals of foster children. Antonio is on the group’s board of directors, and flew to the African nation with other members to offer support to a local school they’ve been sponsoring.
“There was a big flood there, they had the most rain they’d had in 70 years, so we went to help out,” Antonio says. “It flooded out the housing area that we had for the kids who attend the school, so we had to help them find a new place to live.”
The group, which included Educate Tomorrow’s CEO Brett McNaught, spent six days in the village helping to rebuild the community, distribute aid, and getting to know the area children. As someone who grew up in foster care, Antonio was proud to be able to give back to others in need.
“We brought them medicine and school supplies for the next year, then I also had things like clothes and toothbrushes,” he says. “I wanted to bring them something fun too, so I gave children’s books and a soccer ball. It was amazing to go and meet everyone so I was sad to leave them at the end, but I felt great about the trip and proud of the work we did.”
Antonio has played an important role in the development of Educate Tomorrow’s efforts over the years, and the organization was actually started in part due to the spirit that founders Melanie and Chris Damian saw in him. The couple were his original foster sponsors during his high school and Full Sail education, and he credits their guidance in helping him and others like him build successful careers.
For Antonio, this includes five years as a broadcast coordinator/sound engineer with Crispin Porter & Bogusky, as well as a blossoming music career with his company BMR Hip Hop – in addition to his work with the non-profit.
“They started helping other kids because of me,” Antonio says. “They saw that I was able to take advantage of their help and really do something positive with it, and now they’re helping more kids go to college. It’s really inspiring to think about the number of lives that have changed. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for them.”