Devin Cannady and Orlando Magic celebrate the conclusion of the Summer Mentorship program

Launched last month in partnership with Central Florida Boys & Girls Clubs and the CTG Foundation, the Magic and Pepsi Stronger Together program provided children with valuable lessons about sports, leadership and life

ORLANDO- Over the past eight weeks, kids at the Eatonville Boys & Girls Club in Central Florida have been through an extensive mentoring program conducted by Orlando Magic, Pepsi Stronger Together and the Close the Gap (CTG) Foundation to learn valuable lessons about sports, leadership and Life.

The youth mentorship camp featured talks with guest speakers on financial education, leadership, career opportunities and other lessons for building a healthy and productive life.

Among those guest speakers was Magic Guard Devin Cannady, who shared his inspirational life journey with the children, along with messages on how to make good decisions, set goals, and surround yourself with the right people.

So when the kids celebrated their graduation from the program on Monday, it was only fitting that Cannady — along with other representatives from Magic, the CTG Foundation, and the Boys & Girls Club — attended their graduation ceremony.

“This organization and this group is really helping these children become better citizens, become better adults, and become leaders in their communities,” Cannady said. “That’s why I’m proud to be here to support them. I like the foundation they have and the principles here. It’s super awesome that these kids are moving on to the next thing and it’s cool to be a part of it.”

This was the second year in a row that Pepsi Stronger Together – PepsiCo’s nationwide line of grassroots initiatives and community-focused programs – has partnered with the Magic, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and the CTG Foundation to create a mentorship program for host local youth.

The impact of the program is obvious. At the beginning of the camp, many of the children were shy and lacked the confidence to speak effectively in front of their peers. After graduation, each child stood in front of the room and accepted a certificate from Cannady, CTG co-founders Rich Baker and Clifton Smith Jr., and motivational speaker Dr. Javar Godfrey as it shook hands and looked them in the eye. Then they turned to the audience and shared with confidence and clarity an ambitious goal for their future.

“The growth is tremendous,” Baker said. “Kids who didn’t even want to speak for the first week, we can’t shut them up now (laughter). They’re so comfortable with each other and more importantly, they’re more comfortable with themselves so they can express themselves.”

One of the program’s many standout students is 17-year-old Peyton Spencer, who has completed the camp for the second time. Now a leader for her peers, she has shown tremendous growth over the past year, particularly when it comes to public speaking.

“I was very scared last year,” she explained. “Every time (they called me) I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But this summer I saw myself as I do today, raising my hand to every question. Feel more comfortable with my answers. I think that’s a big difference.”

Spencer enjoyed a number of elements of the course, including life lessons from Dr. Godfrey and the financial education program with BankUnited. But some of her favorite experiences have included touring the Amway Center, attending a Magic careers panel, and listening to Cannady.

“I feel very special,” she said. “When we toured the Amway Center, I thought, ‘Wow, nobody else is allowed to do that.’ That’s something I can say to my friends, ‘Look what I have to do.’ I just feel very honored.”

Now Spencer and the other students in the program have even more to tell their friends. At the end of the ceremony, Cannady announced to the group that the Magic will be hosting all members of the camp at a game next season.

“This is going to be great fun,” Baker said. “They grow up ten minutes from the arena, but[many of them]have never set foot in it. When they go in, (it’s going to be amazing). Now they not only have a rooted interest in magic, but also in Devin. You will see her man in the square. That’s incredible. What an inspiration for her. You will completely lose your mind. You’re going to go crazy.”

Because what’s a graduation without a true celebration.

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