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Boys & Girls Cub manager inspiring students at Milwaukee's Maple Tree Elementary

Posted at 11:25 AM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 12:51:24-05

Kids getting help from Dresidan Gatlin at Milwaukee's Maple Tree Elementary School is a common sight. Gatlin is the manager for the Boys and Girls Club program at the school.

"I just believe in giving kids the best experience possible," Gatlin says. He knows he's a staple in the lives of many students.

"I just feel like kids need somebody, and what they don't have enough of is a strong Black male role model," Gatlin says. "I often tell parents I'm with your child in a week more than you are. You get them a few hours in the week and the weekend. I just want to be a constant person that they see and can depend on and give the love, easy love and tough love."

Gatlin gets high marks from students, who absolutely adore him.

"He's great to talk to when you're feeling down," says Alandrea Bridges. Alandrea dreams of being a lawyer when she grows up.

Her classmate Alecia Martin wants to be a teacher. "Mr. Gatlin is very friendly and nice," she says.

Gatlin loves helping kids discover the joy of learning.

"I do good knowing I have touched at least 70-75 kids' lives a day in the after-school program and I have in some shape, form or fashion made a difference or a change in their life," he says. Gatlin earned an honor from State Representative LaKeshia Myers for advocating for children.

"I was like whoa, I had no idea," he says. "I had to go to the Capitol. I had to speak; I didn't know any of that."

But, Gatlin says he's motivated by the students, not the awards.

"I do what I do because the community needs somebody. I just happened to be that somebody."

And that somebody wants to give kids the best foundation to thrive. 10-year-old Derrick Morehead hopes to be a doctor. He gives the program a winning grade.

"It's fun. We get to hang out with our friends, do our homework. We have parties," Derrick says.

"The boys and girls club is actually the fun part about school!" adds his classmate, Marlon Winston.

But Gatlin is humble, insisting the other leaders in the school are just as important.

"I am not a one man show," he says. "I have the best team that I could ever put together and assemble. The most rewarding part about it is I get a chance to touch kid's lives. I absolutely love my job!"

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