Bryant Hood didn’t have the opportunities to attend youth-centered programs while growing up in Danville. “It was never presented to me,” he said. After graduation, Hood had the choice to go to California or Philadelphia. “I chose Philadelphia because it was on the East Coast, and I had never spent the night away from home as a child. As I witnessed the streets of a larger city, I decided to return to Danville with dreams of owning my own music store.” He made the dream a reality. After being bought out by a partner, Hood embarked on a journey to form a production company. He also opened an independent community center. “With no resources, I was able to draw the community together for one common cause to unify all citizens.”
Hood took a break from community service to learn more about operating a business by managing 2 nightclubs. But the desire to do good in the community remained strong within him. “I wanted to return to my passion for helping the community, which later lead me to starting the Stayhood Foundation,” he said. The idea was fueled by Hood looking back on some things he missed out on as a child. He wanted to ensure today’s youth have better opportunities. “This drive kept me inspired and the amazing citizens of Danville have been instrumental in the growth of this foundation.”
The ACE (Arts, Culture, and Edu-tainment) Academy came to being as the first program from Hood’s Stayhood Foundation. He said, “We wanted to present an after-school program that gives youth the ages of 10–15-years-old an opportunity to gain a portfolio in music, writing, fashion, and photography.”
The ACE Academy is an eight-week course for 10 participants that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “The youth are required to write an essay on why they want to be in the program. We have additional mentors who assist with the program that we call ACE Influencers or A.I.s,” Hood added. The program allows participants to experience working within in each creative field. “Above that, the youth learn how to work together, collaborate on projects, write a song, respect each other, and express themselves while showing their creativity,” Hood said.
He envisioned the ACE Academy to create an outlet for kids to broaden their horizons and explore the positive activities they can carry with them as they grow into adults. Hood added, “It also helps to keep them from getting involved with activities that can be detrimental to their growth. The socialization aspect plays an important role as well.”
He drew on personal experiences as he put The Academy together. “Growing up, we had men in the communities who would always advise us to do better and not to get involved in negative actions that come from being in the streets. My mother became ill with brain tumors when I was 8-years old. The constant trips back and forth to the hospital took a toll on me. Fortunately, my sister and brothers kept me on the right track.” Hood made a promise to his mother before she succumbed to dementia. “I told her I would do all I could to be involved in the community by helping the elders and the youth.”
The program has impacted to date 12 participants. “We decided that by having 10 youth at a time we can give more attention to their individual development.” The ACE Academy is exploring, adding more mentors. “This will allow the Academy to have more youth per course.”
There is an opportunity to become an ACE Influencer for those wanting to help shape our area youth. The process is simple. “These individuals will be required to fill out a form that explains what field they would like to assist in,” Hood added.
Hood would like to see the ACE Academy grow into a full program of expanded curricula hoping to build character throughout the area. He also wants the program to provide resources to help participants with entrepreneurship and ways to give back to the community. “As the youth complete the program, they can return as an ACE Influencer. We want to see our youth excel in society, use the skills provided to encourage them more in education and be all around awesome students and citizens moving forward,” Hood concluded.