WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – For 15 years, Inspiring Minds has been guiding and helping the area’s youth. It started with the vision of a Warren native to help kids better themselves by giving them a sense of guidance.
When Deryck Toles was a young man, his parents struggled with substance abuse. He had to live with his grandma for the better portion of his childhood and helped take care of his brother and sister.
“I grew up angry, insecure and just trying to navigate the world and figure it out,” he said.
When he was in the eighth grade, life hit Toles. He decided to continue living with his grandma knowing it could put a strain on his relationship with his mother and siblings.
“I felt like, if I wouldn’t have made that move, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now,” Toles said.
He said he didn’t do well in school, getting Ds and Fs in the eighth grade. It didn’t hit him until he tried out for basketball and was told he couldn’t play.
“I was too busy worried about my walk home. I was too busy worried about what was going to happen to my brother and sister or what was going on at the crib,” he said.
It wasn’t until one night while watching a Denver Broncos game that Toles decided he wanted to play football. That’s when he met the now current head coach of Warren Harding, Steve Arnold, who would be the man who pushed Toles to be better.
“What I didn’t realize at the time though was he saw more in me than I saw in myself,” Toles said.
Toles went off to play football at Penn State and made sure his grades were just as important, if not more, than his field play.
“I was a young, Black man in America and I was told the only thing I could do to be successful was entertain people,” Toles said.
He would go on to make it on the Dean’s List and graduate with a degree in business administration.
Toles gave the NFL a shot but decided to move on due to injuries.
“If I knew back then what I know now, there’s some different decisions I could have made,” Toles said.
When he moved back, he wanted to help kids. He started by simply talking to them about life before helping them with school, which laid the groundwork for Inspiring Minds.
“We scream, we yell, we have Super Bowl parties for young people who make the right decisions and open doors for them when they’re successful at things that we all claim that are important,” Toles said.