Founder, and Community Leader
When Mattie Marshall moved to Charlotte’s Washington Heights neighborhood in 1976, she was stunned to see something she had never experienced even growing up as a sharecropper in the segregated cotton fields of Georgia.
“I often recall the tears in my eyes when I would see some of the young people walking by with their heads down,” she says. “That did not look right to me. Growing up in Georgia we had a lot of dignity, respect and pride about life—a lot of love. You never walked around with your head down, hopeless or dragging your feet.”
Rather than flee from the drugs and violence plaguing the historic neighborhood, she decided to work to revitalize it. With the help of some neighbors, Marshall founded the Youth Services Academy (YSA) in 1992, and embarked on a mission to help each individual develop mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to his or her highest potential in a safe, clean, and wholesome neighborhood.
To help children to reach their potential, Marshall would teach children and adults every Saturday how to use technology at Johnson C. Smith University. She drew on her passion for the fine arts, developed when she lived in New York, to fill the rest of the week with mentoring, tutoring, educational enrichment and arts activities, such as concerts and dancing.
“Education is the passport to any destination,” she says.
Marshall defines a philanthropist as one who shares their gifts and talents to uplift humanity with dignity and respect.
She has continued to support education by establishing a scholarship fund at Johnson C. Smith University and hopes to hold a reunion for those who participated in the YSA.
“The neighborhood has been like my children,” she said. “I like people to value our history, achievements and accomplishments.”
Biography written by Mary Tyler March