Local man creates special garden to connect with Milwaukee’s youth

MILWAUKEE — It could be called a garden with a secret power, a field that grows dreams, and a plot with a purpose. It’s located at 1313 W. Reservoir in Milwaukee.

“I was born to teach little Black boys that they can,” exclaims Andre Ellis.

He created a special garden as a way to connect with Milwaukee’s youth.

Ellis shares, “As long as they have their hands in the soil, they can keep them off the trigger of a gun.”

Ellis devotes his life to mentoring youth.

“You ask how many of you don’t know your dad, and 90 of them raise their hand. I’m not the birth dad I’m the earth dad,” he said.

Ellis has mentored 24-year-old Anthony LaPointe since LaPointe was 14. Today, LaPointe is a student at UW-Whitewater. He was raised in a home with no father and considers Ellis his dad.

LaPointe notes, “Mr. Andre has always been like a safe haven.”

He calls Ellis “Pops.”

“It’s like a nickname that comes with status to show him respect and to give him his flowers. It’s more of a respect. It’s not just a thank you from me but from other boys who benefited from him,” LaPointe says.

Ellis has been there for thousands of youth over the years.

LaPointe adds, “You can go to Mr. Andre and you can tell him exactly what you’re going through, he might even guess it.”

His garden has been fertile ground to keep youth away from the streets.

Ellis reflects, “There’s a lot of pain in our community. I get some of the most hard-core dudes, who have high-powered rifles and guns and instruments that come and see me before they make mistakes.”

Ellis believes we can all help struggling youth rise survive and thrive. He plants powerful messages outside the garden. It includes an annual black tie event for hundreds of youth.

“You give me three to six months in the garden here, we get busy they come here diligently every day, when I bring them back to the courtroom, they’re going to have a job,” Ellis said. “Just because you lack don’t mean you have to lose. My approach is teaching the people on the bottom how to fly.”

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