BELOIT - Markese Terrell has a fire in his belly.
It's a hunger, a burning need to help his community and the neighborhood in which he grew up.
"About three years ago when my cousin was killed, I developed a passion to try and get more involved with the youth," he said.
Markese has made good on that commitment by getting involved in many ways.
For two years he was part of the Community Action, Inc. Mentoring Program, working as a volunteer with at-risk high school youth. The program involved mentors such as Markese meeting twice a week with participants in groups or in one-on-one settings. They discussed everyday life problems, making informed life choices, gave career advice and more.
Having grown up in a fragile neighborhood, Markese understands issues many of those students faced.
"I was a hothead when I was little; I was being a follower. I would do stuff just to follow the crowd. Then I felt terrible afterward. I'm not perfect, I always tell the youth about it," he said.
But Markese matured as he grew older.
"In my senior year I got it together," he said.
He graduated from Beloit Memorial High School in 2008.
The mentoring program he was a part of was established by Marc Perry, Community Action Inc., Planning and Development Director.
Although the mentoring program no longer is in session during the school year, it will be back in the summer and Markese plans to get involved again, he said.
Perry praised Markese's volunteer efforts.
"We welcomed him, he was out of school but still connected," Perry said.
Perry stressed the importance of grassroots efforts and of people volunteering who understand the barriers youth can face yet also how resourceful kids are.
"It's about understanding barriers, skills and resources," he said.
Markese had role models along the way who inspired him at Merrill Elementary School, at the Merrill Community Center and the Stateline Area Boys & Girls Club.
After high school graduation, Markese attended the University of Wisconsin Whitewater for three years then decided to find employment. He has been employed at Frito-Lay for eight years and is a forklift operator.
His connections to the community continued on at work.
As he became familiar with others at the plant, he reached out in ways he knew would benefit others.
One of those employees he has a strong connection to is Rob Hendrickson, technical director.
"We started talking about what we do in the community," Hendrickson said. That led to connecting Frito-Lay with the Community Action agency, for example.
"I did everything I could to bridge Frito to the Merrill Center and Rob with Marc," Markese said.
That led to tours of the plant for youth and those in the Fatherhood Initiative program and more.
The idea was for participants to understand opportunities and what is expected, he said.
"It's just part of what I do, people come to me and talk to me and I have helped people get jobs," Markese said.
"He's very passionate; he's got a fire inside for the community," Hendrickson said.
He also noted the positive attitude Markese brings to work.
"He's an inspiration to others. He's always positive and always happy," Hendrickson added.
Markese also reaches out to kids by purchasing boxes of Frito-Lay chips and donating them to places like the Merrill Community Center for a snack for the children there.
Recently, he stopped by the center and spoke briefly with the children in the after-school program.
"I'm just stopping by seeing how you are doing; I'll hang out for a while," he said.
Reaching out to the community also goes beyond work and organizations, in subtle ways for Markese.
In his free time, for example, he also enjoys working out at a local gym. He tries to help friends with their fitness routine and how to stay safe and healthy.
"I grew up here and I just care about my city, the people and history," he said. "I care about the men and women and the youth."
As for others who might want to volunteer their time, he had this to say: "Find something you are good at. Have a positive impact on the community. That could be as a cook, to talk to people or do comedy."
Markese also believes knowledge is what saves people and the world.
"They say knowledge doesn't come free, but I believe knowledge can save a person from destroying themselves so it should never be limited to those who can afford it," he said.