Skip to main content

Learning How To Be A Man

DWAINE (Little Lights Alum)

“Regardless of how far I go, Little Lights is my family. Whenever I see my family flourishing, it makes me proud. I’m not surprised that Little Lights has been able to sustain this long, to 25 years. God’s hand has been on Steve and Mary and the organization from the very beginning. 

Dwaine remembers when he met Steve. He was a scrawny 9 year old outside of Watkins Elementary School, signing up for Camp Heaven the summer of 1997. Dwaine and Steve connected quickly and Steve decided to personally mentor Dwaine. “Learning about God and learning how to be a young man, I learned that from Steve,” Dwaine recalls. “I learned the most from watching him. I observed humility in Steve. Always saw him putting other people before himself.”

Over the years, as Dwaine grew into adolescence, Steve and Dwaine started talking about Dwaine’s future. “Steve really talked me down from a lot of stuff. He talked me out of my hoop dreams. It was a very frank conversation. He said ‘You don’t play basketball every day, you don’t play football every day, and you’re tiny.’ I called him a dream crusher,” Dwaine laughs. But he did put aside his sports ambitions, worked hard to graduate high school, and headed to college at Liberty University. He chose a different path than most of his peers. 

“The conversations I had with Steve helped me make that decision. Hard core conversations, about what I wanted my future to look like. My desire to be a husband and a father, to have stability, things like that.” That sort of concern and guidance, “It made me feel loved, really,” Dwaine reminisced. “Graduating from high school, I had not just Steve there but a bunch of the Little Lights staff. Steve was at my college graduation, too. He drove three and a half hours. To this day, he still hasn’t missed any milestone in my life. He came to my housewarming, he came to my ordination, he came to the hospital when my son, Gabriel, was born. That says a lot about who Little Lights is.” 

Dwaine is 32 now, married to Erica. They have a beautiful three-year-old son, Gabriel. Late in 2019, Dwaine and Erica bought their first home and they were both ordained as ministers in their church. For the majority of his career, Dwaine has worked in the nonprofit realm, a decision he credits to Steve. One day soon, he is planning to launch his own organization, similar to Little Lights. “Steve is the reason I love working in nonprofit. The fact that he could impact the Potomac Gardens community the way that he has, and then seeing how that ballooned into him having an impact on that entire area of DC. Anywhere in DC that I go, people know Steve, they know Little Lights, and they have great things to say. That says a lot about the character of a man.”

Through youth development, economic empowerment and relational support, Little Lights helps underserved youth and families flourish. Learn more about our work and how you can help make our communities more equitable for all.