Former American Idol winner, husband aim to expand program to help La.’s at-risk youth

Kendall Taylor made a vow that he would help young men avoid the same mistakes that almost cost him his life.
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 10:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Kendall Taylor made a vow that he would help young men avoid the same mistakes that almost cost him his life.

“What we’re seeing is not a Louisiana issue, it’s a world issue,” said Taylor.

By the age of 16, Taylor had been arrested and involved in a deadly shootout. As he got older, he turned his life around and launched a non-profit called Salute 1st.

Taylor says the organization’s mission is to build men of good character and guide them away from a life of crime, drugs, and violence.

Taylor has introduced the program to different schools, community centers, and prisons in his home state of North Carolina, but his goal is to expand in Louisiana.

Salute 1st is currently at St. James High School and Sixth Ward Elementary School, but what makes his program different than the ones we already have?

“Math is necessary, but it’s not going to make you a better man. History is important but it’s not going to make you a better father. Science confirms how the earth hinges on its axis, but it’s not going to make you a better son. So, while school, high school, and college is necessary to get a paycheck, life happens in between paychecks,” said Taylor.

“While there are a lot of other programs that are incredibly necessary, ours are a little bit more confrontational, ours is a little bit more uncut, ours is a little bit more raw, a little more unapologetic, and I think that’s what the young people respect,” said Taylor.

Taylor met with Gov. Edwards, state lawmakers, and leaders at Southern University Laboratory School about expanding the program, with a familiar face by his side.

“I knew when we linked up that we had something special to do, I just didn’t know it was going to be this,” said Fantasia Barrino-Taylor.

Taylor is married to former American Idol winner and singer Fantasia.

She spoke on the program’s impact.

“One young man said last night, thank you for caring that we wake up in the morning. You think, wow, they just want somebody to care. They ain’t bad, they ain’t wilding out, they just want somebody to listen,” said Fantasia. “I’m watching my husband, my king, my best friend, my partner release help, release things out of these young men, so they can go off and be great.”

Some people might wonder, why Louisiana?

Taylor’s answer was simple.

“Why not Louisiana,” Taylor asked. “They’re so quick to put you all back as the murder capital of the world. They don’t mind throwing you in that box, but what if we set precedence and we become the model for revolutionizing education and character development and developing men. Why won’t we give them something else to talk about? So, my thing is why not Louisiana?”

Salute 1st will expand and be implemented in St. John, Terrebonne, St. Charles, and Orleans Parish this Fall.

Taylor’s goal is to eventually bring it to East Baton Rouge Parish, and every other part of the state.

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