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Hero Empowerment Center offers safe haven for teens

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Ladell Beamon is well-known in Memphis for his mentoring outreach with troubled teens through his Heal the Hood foundation.

And he isn't resting on his laurels — he's found a new way to get more teens off the streets.

Beamon can't hide his excitement about the Hero Empowerment Center. He transformed an old arcade into an artistic safe haven for teens.

"A lot of kids that are out here gang banging and doing things in the street, they have extraordinary gifts to do what they do, but what happens if you use those gifts in another direction."

Driving that change in direction is the superhero "Wake," created by Beamon.

"Gotham has Batman, Metropolis has Superman, why not give Memphis its own superhero characters?"

Beaman refers to the Hero Empowerment Center as the Justice Hall.  It's there where young people are learning and practicing values like self respect and respect for others.

"We're mentoring kids, where our superheroes are mentoring kids, changing them from villains into heroes by teaching character development."

Beamon says music and the performing arts changed his life. The Overton High graduate is hoping music, dance and art will expand these young people's minds beyond their circumstances.

"OK, what do I have to do to get to these kids, give them the same experience, expand their minds so when they go back to the box they're like, wait a minute, I don't belong in this."

"We have dance, acting, recording, art so it's all types of things but I'm mostly interested in dancing," 16-year-old Amya said.

And getting her moves right is all she is concerned about when she's at the Hero Empowerment Center.

"I've met new friends, it's a safe environment and I feel comfortable."

Malik Brooks came to the center with a friend. He says from day one it's fun and it's helped change his focus.

"Letting us show our talent, what we have to prove as the youth together that we can change who we are, what we do, where we came from and be something better."

The first Hero Empowerment Center is in the Hickory Ridge Mall. The plan is to have these youth centers across the city of Memphis.

"It's amazing for us. It's a dream come true, and it really gives us an opportunity to do something different."

Whether they're playing video games, making music, dancing or working on art, this is where heroes are made.