Unlikely Brothers: Joint memoir of a big-brother mentor and child

Michael Mattocks, left, remembers when John Prendergast taught him to fish in 1983.

As D.C. government has proposed cuts to services for underprivileged youths, two friends have taken up the call.

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They're encouraging folks to become big brother mentors. Because as they show through their own story, even a small commitment can change a child's life.

In a small spot behind the Watergate Hotel, 25 years ago, John Prendergast taught Michael Mattocks to fish -- to tie a lure -- but also so much more.

And the power of that relationship, between a mentor and a youth, comes alive in their new book, Unlikely Brothers.

The joint memoir chronicles the pair's chance 1983 meeting in a D.C. homeless shelter.

John became like a big brother to Michael, playing like a kid, and teaching him how to read. But John's life took a different direction. And he became a leading human rights activist in Africa.

Eventually he landed a top job in the White House, rubbing elbows with influentials from President Bill Clinton to George Clooney.

But as John survived in war zones abroad, Michael fell victim to those at home.

"It was so easy to get a gun," Mattocks says. "Easier than even a book, yes."

At 13, he dropped out of school and never went back. At 14, he became the most powerful drug dealer on Georgia Avenue, carrying guns bigger than the ones the police had.

But one evening, some years later, thugs robbed his wife and boys at gunpoint. And all of a sudden Michael realized how much he had to lose.

Instead of retaliating and falling deeper into the street life, Michael left it forever. And as he looks back on the guns, drugs, and most of all those fleeting moments on the Potomac, he says his friend John, while not always there, showed him a way of life he would have otherwise never known.

And that lead him to make the right decision when it mattered most. Since then, he has turned his life around and makes taking care of his family his top priority.

"Taking care of my family, that's it," Mattocks says. "That's it. That's how I look at it."

Today Michael supports his family by driving a bus in Laurel.

Buy, 40,000 American kids still await big brother or sister mentors.

View the Facebook page for Unlikely Brothers.

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