Leon Abdullah El-Alamin
Name: Leon Abdullah El-Alamin
Company Name: The M.A.D.E Institute
Designation: Founder & Executive Director of MADE
Have you ever made a mistake or completed a task after which you thought to yourself, ‘Maybe I could have done better?’ or ‘I should have done this instead of that?’ We all wish for second chances in our lives and those who get them are the lucky ones. When you do have the chance to redo something, you always make sure to do it perfectly. Leon Abdullah El-Alamin, the CEO of The MADE Institute, is an entrepreneur who is guided by these ideals and is transforming the lives of those who become victims of violence and who have been impacted by mass incarceration by providing them with an invaluable second chance!
Turning His Passion Into His Profession
We all face many challenging choices along the way, there is no denying that. You can either come to the conclusion that where you originate from doesn’t really matter in the end; what matters is the destination that you land upon, or you can blame your situation and the circumstances that you were born and raised in as the cause of your poor judgments and downfall.
Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Abdullah had humble beginnings early on in his life. It was not easy for him as his grandmother was responsible for most of his upbringing. His mother influenced his life later on in his teenage years.
Leon was born and raised in a hostile environment, so it’s not unexpected that he chose the same path. During his adolescence, his surroundings influenced his choices, and for a while, he adopted that culture. Soon enough, he realized that his environment was a mess. He saw first-hand the damage that drugs, mass incarcerations, and structural racism in the institutions caused not only to the people actively involved in them but also to their families. It destroyed people and drove families apart. It was after observing all of this that Abdullah made up his mind, he was not going to be just another bystander, he was going to sit there and wait for change to come but he would lead the change himself.
From that day onwards, he has made it his life’s mission to end mass incarceration and help rebuild marginalized communities and those who get caught in the cycle of violence!
Education: The Most Powerful Weapon
Leon Abdullah shifted his focus from the violence-ridden streets and all other negative aspects of his environment to positive things that would benefit him in the long run. The passion that drives him today is spirituality. It has had a profound impact on his life and helped him think deeper and develop a solid mindset. His love for the community, his family, and those riddled with violence guides him on a daily basis.
He now addresses structural issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration, miseducation, and the economic exploitation of marginalized communities. He aims to hit these issues at their core and come up with solutions that will help eradicate them.
Today, his organization The MADE Institute which stands for Money, Attitude, Direction, and Education is dedicated to serving the community. He is attempting to give a second chance to those who became negative products of their environment.
A Community Development ReEntry Corporation, M.A.D.E offers comprehensive trauma-informed programming for juveniles and adults who have a history of crime but have the potential to recover and contribute to society. In addition to this, M.A.D.E also helps at-risk youth who are born and brought up in environments similar to that Abdullah was raised in. The institution attempts to do everything in its power to change the lives of these individuals around. M.A.D.E is committed to making people’s lives better than ever!
From Convict to Clean Chit
You can’t save anyone who wouldn’t save themselves if you weren’t there! We all know the extreme environment Leon was brought up in. He got caught up in it, and as a result of some poor choices and terrible timing, he was convicted and sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison for drugs and gun charges. He served 7 years of his sentence after a drug law had changed in the state of Michigan.
Abdullah’s focus shifted toward making a name for himself and working for the betterment of his community. After he was freed from prison, the first thing he did was visit North Flint, his old neighborhood. He made many investments in properties that he believed had strong financial potential and at the same time, held special significance for him. From here, The MADE Institute’s unofficial history began. Leon trained folks who had just been released from prison how to rehabilitate their houses, live better lives, and become productive members of society.
What the MADE Institute Has in Store?
The Government established community development centers do not offer as many facilities and programming that particularly focus on those who have been impacted by the war on drugs and the school-to-prison pipeline as M.A.D.E does. From offering workforce development and helping individuals learn new skills to providing transitional housing, the organization is fighting to better the lives of individuals. In addition to these skills, urban farming, financial literacy, required mentoring, job readiness with opportunities, health and wellness, research, technology, and advocacy are all undertaken by them. They aim at the holistic development of an individual to ensure that they are ready to stay away from a life of crime.
The most popular course offered by M.A.D.E is their Life Skills program, a 10-phase program that lasts for 12-14 weeks. It aims to aid an individual to grow in all aspects of life. The course can be undertaken by people from all walks of life as there is no age restriction in place. It teaches students how to dress for work, how to construct a cover letter and resume, and how to analyze their soft skills. It also boosts their morale and confidence by teaching them to carry out presentations. The institute trains people to set goals for their careers, long-term goals as well as short-term goals. Then, it provides them with a roadmap for achieving these objectives.
In terms of personality development, M.A.D.E believes that if an individual’s mindset remains the same even after getting a second chance, then it really has not changed him. To ensure the attendees are in check, the institute coaches them on attitude and teaches them to maintain their cool even in the most stressful of situations. Because if you can control your mind when things seem to be going down, then you can keep your cool in any situation. In addition to this, financial literacy is another aspect that marginalized families are oblivious toward. M.A.D.E is encouraging them to become aware of their spending behaviors and is inculcating habits such as financial planning and investing so that these individuals can come out of their undesirable life situations.
It seems to be a rather life-changing experience as Leon has designed the program in such a way that any person attending this is sure to feel reborn after undergoing 12 weeks of this course. The most basic things such as self-reflection, encouraging neatness and organizing oneself, learning how to clearly communicate, managing time efficiently, and achieving a successful work-life balance are all covered under this. It also prepares the attendees for the worst of situations. They learn how to be prepared if they lose their job and how to deal with it.
The Promising Vision
The MADE Institute has now become the go-to institution for anyone wishing to transform their life. It aims to create a community that is safe for citizens and at-risk youth to have equal access to employment, education, and complete participation in the economical, social, political, and cultural life of the community.
To realize this vision, the project is attempting to improve public safety by lowering crime rates. This is expected to be achieved via the implementation of a plan that includes services and supervision of an individual who is incarcerated. M.A.D.E. monitors the prisoners during the last 90 days while they are incarcerated and after they are released, assisting them in returning to normal life. They stay in touch to make sure that these people don’t return to the same kind of criminal lifestyle from which they came. The project is ambitious in Flint and Genesee County, where it is situated, has one of the greatest records in the entire state when it comes to turning former prisoners into contributing members of society, with a success rate of 90%. M.A.D.E has the vision to redevelop an abandoned commercial property and turn it into a cultural hub, office space, and business incubator in the center of North Flint. This is part of their SELF-MADE Venture program. Through entrepreneurship and creating social enterprises as a strategy to curb crime and create jobs from within the neighborhoods that have been disinvested for decades. It does seem to be an indomitable task, however, Leon is passionate about what he is doing and will always be able to accomplish his goal no matter what!
Progress Post the Pandemic
Leon Abdullah was not only in charge of starting The MADE Institute; he actively takes part in the management and day-to-day working of the organization. His job is to look over the functioning of the institution and explore avenues where they can better themselves. Abdullah was fazed by the pandemic as he was caught off-guard by the magnitude of it and the adverse impact it had. However, you need to adapt to conditions and that is exactly what he did.
The first objective was to protect the employees and volunteers who were involved with M.A.D.E. The Institution made sure that it followed the guidelines laid out by the local and state governments. In addition to this, they made sure to improve upon the technology aspect.
They adapted technologically and made sure that as much as possible, it was not necessary for individuals to show up in person always. They began to offer remote services which led to M.A.D.E increasing its reach and the number of lives it transformed. Today, M.A.D.E has managed to offer 8 housing programs that have given the underprivileged a roof over their heads. Besides, it has served over 1000 and helped over 100 people to obtain jobs and ensured a steady flow of income. Leon’s establishment has come as a blessing in disguise to the marginalized communities.
From being prone to living a life of crime to giving back to society through his institution, Leon Abdullah El-Alamin has come a long way. He might have made the decision to keep going in that direction. His mother’s strength and his spiritual teachings guided him to opt otherwise. When he was released from prison, his primary objectives were to have a meaningful life and encourage others to do the same. Today, he has had his record expunged, obtained his first college degree in business, and continues to set an exemplary example while earning the respect of his community and has shown them that despite difficult beginnings, we all can make change for the better.