By VICTORIA CISNEROS, Student Writer
In the late 1990’s, Nicholas Butler (2004) left his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to pursue a college career on the west coast. His desire to become a bulldog and the chance to play football under Coach Pat Hill are what drew him to Fresno State, but the loss of a dear friend coupled with a commitment to keep his name alive are what led Nicholas to establish The T.R.O.Y. Center — a non-profit organization that works to positively impact Fresno’s “impressionable” youth.
As a student, Nicholas majored in sociology and dreamt of a long and prosperous football career, but after two consecutive injured seasons, a future in football was hardly possible. He gave up the sport and ventured into law enforcement, becoming a correctional officer at Fresno’s Juvenile Justice Campus in 2007.
In 2017, Nicholas launched The T.R.O.Y. (Truly Reviving Our Youth) Center, named after his late hometown friend Troy Cory Taylor.
“He passed away through some senseless violence…and I’ve always wanted to give back to him.”
“Now what we do at T.R.O.Y. is just a passion that I’ve had in my life since I can remember. Working with kids because I was that kid. Had I not had the sport, I would not have achieved higher education or higher learning because I would have probably just become another statistic out there.”
The T.R.O.Y Center’s first fundraising event was held in St. Louis as a tribute to Troy Taylor and a chance to raise money for an inaugural scholarship. Since then, the center has hosted local events across the Fresno area: sponsoring a screening of Black Panther at Sierra Vista Mall, organizing a community kickball tournament at Al Radka Park, and funding a backpack giveaway for the upcoming school year at Fresno State’s Red Lot.
Not only did the center give away over 150 backpacks, but they also collaborated with local businesses and campus organizations.
“We had a barber reach out to us who owns Dope Barbershop here in Fresno and said that he would be more than willing to come out and give free haircuts. Now if you’re having parents come out to get free backpacks and school supplies, it’s almost obvious that they don’t have the finances to go out and get a $30 haircut…So as soon as he said he would do it, no brainer.”
Nicholas also reached out to Fresno State Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Tim Shelton, an old friend from his younger days, who managed to donate a signed basketball to be raffled off to the kids.
“He definitely came through with that. He got the ball signed for me. We raffled it off to a young man and he was so excited about it.”
Knowing just how much his time as a bulldog meant to him, Nicholas hopes to get kids excited about higher education.
“I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the education that I received here at Fresno State, and not only just the educational part, but the networking… So if I can be that kind of blueprint and lead them down the right path… that’s definitely a valid reason to have [our events] here.”
Some of Nicholas’ absolute favorite moments from working with youth are “just seeing the smiles on the families faces as they come up and say thank you.”
“At our first kickball event, we actually gave every youth that was in attendance a free pass to Quincy Pondexter’s basketball camp. The camp was the following week, so I went to support, and the families that got the tickets through our foundation came up to me and were just so thankful that they had the opportunity to send their child to this event. Those are the moments. That’s my why.”
And even after Nicholas hears such meaningful gratitude, he can’t help but give it back.
“I definitely wanna say thank you, and thank you to everyone who has helped out thus far. And we’re here. We’re really truly reviving our youth. That’s what we’re here trying to do. One hundred percent.”