Tampa, FL,
02:00 AM

Let's Make It Official

Marquelle was a shy young man with high aspirations and a struggling relationship with his father. Like many young men, he was desperate for guidance and positive role models in his life.

Marquelle also loved to play basketball. Though he worked really hard on his skills, he never made the team. He was however able to channel his persistence and passion to become a referee!


For the past 3 years, Let’s Make it Official (LMO) has been recruiting young inner city men with leadership qualities. The organization helps them obtain the necessary skills to become a licensed football, basketball, baseball, soccer or lacrosse referee. At the same time, they learn fundamental social and financial skills to positively impact their lives and communities.

Upon graduating from the 13-week program, the young adults are fully outfitted from head to toe with uniforms, whistles and even shoes. LMO helps book them referring jobs and also find other employment at local recreation and community centers.

“I was able to learn about financial freedom and personal finance,” says Marquelle Joseph, a current student at the University of South Florida (USF). “Some of the things I learned were the differences between credit unions and banks, writing checks, creating budgets, and the consequences of irresponsible money management. The lessons learned from the people of LMO will not only benefit me in the present but should allow me to build a prosperous future. The people at LMO are my mentors, teachers, friends, advisors and most importantly – family,” says Marquelle.


LMO allows young adults to look at officiating from a different perspective. “Referees need to be objective and not let negative things that folks tell them affect their calls,” says Jack Brown, a basketball referee mentor with 33 years of experience. “Students learn to make objective decisions as a referee just like in real life.”

“The program teaches what every youth needs to learn – respect, conduct, managing their finances, and self-confidence,” says State Farm Agent, Stan White, who is also founder of LMO. “The students learn to be in control of the game and themselves. When they put the uniform on, they command respect,” says Stan. “Everybody attending the games knows that the referee is in charge!”

“I have a part-time job at a recreation center thanks to LMO” says Darriean Gainer, a high school student in the program. “I’m also learning how to manage the money I earn so I can use it for college”. “This program is like a third family for me. There is a lot of heart here.”


“It’s more than just sitting in the classroom getting a certificate, it’s a sense of accomplishment” says Stan White. “The students are applying what they learned in class by shadowing the referee. They did this themselves, outside of school and their regular activities. This is something that will last them a lifetime”.

“I may not have the influence or the resources to make immediate changes to my community but with the lessons learned from LMO, I can continue to work on myself and better my character to make a difference in my community” shared Marquelle.

LMO is providing aspiring young leaders with the essential skills to positively impact their community. To learn more about the program, please visit lmoinc.org

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