Local groups band together to train boys to be leaders

By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: August 16, 2018 | 2:45 p.m.

SURRY – On July 26-28, several local organizations banded together to provide local school-age boys an opportunity to gain new skills, learn from positive role models, and become leaders. And, as Sophenia Pierce – Director of Department of Youth and Family Resources for Surry County, explained, it was the result of a local effort that has been building for several years.

Boys 2 Men Connection Camp was started nearly four years ago, Pierce said, by the Surry County Office on Youth (now the Department of Youth and Family Resources) when county staff, along with volunteers from Men Empowering Young People sponsored the one day/overnight camp at Eastover Retreat. The purpose of the project was to introduce younger males to a variety of career paths. The first year, approximately 25 boys met with the two sponsoring organizations and heard Dr. Clarence Penn, a former Surry County Schools’ Superintendent and community leader, speak.

This year, nearly 40 males camped together for three days and two nights to enjoy more hands-on activities. Along with the more fun oriented activities like a car wash contest, fishing competition, a farming session, and a trip to a music studio, they learned some soft skills. They learned the importance of first impressions, and skills needed to make a good one, like how to properly handshake, tie a necktie, shine shoes, interview, and articulate a winning elevator speech to introduce themselves – and about setting goals.

Pierce explained that the majority of the boys attending are participants of the mentoring programs offered by the Department of Youth and Family Resources and are dived into three teams: elementary boys, and middle school youth, and males 13 to 17 who serve as counselors and junior counselors. A series of trainings and interviews are required for counselors to serve in leadership roles.

“The energy and excitement are phenomenal,” Pierce said, adding that the most unique aspect of the camp is that it is “almost 100% coordinated by a team of nearly 20 males. They do it all – from cooking to shopping, and leading workshops. To see the way these males come together throughout the year to plan such an amazing and life-changing event is something that does not happen every day.”

Pierce described a diverse and impressive list of key partner organizations: Hope Ministries, Inc. led by Leon Pettaway, Pastor of Abundant Life Ministries, and United to Empower – a local nonprofit organization started by male volunteers who assist the Department of Youth and Family Resource. The newest partner organization, ACTNIM (A Cross The Nations International Ministries), has joined forces to bridge the gap that exists between different people and groups across the world. Other sponsors include: Hope Chapel Deliverance Center, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, Wakefield Christian Outreach Center, Bibleway Baptist Church, Surry Sheriff’s Office Lebanon Baptist Disputantia and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Glenn Slade, local farmer and former VA Cooperative Extension Agent, talks to the boys in a session called Green Acres

“Pettaway believes that the camp is an excellent example of the power of partnership and says it is successful because no one cares who gets the credit,” Pierce explained. “Other valuable contributors for this year’s camp were L. P. Jackson Middle School’s 21st Century Community Learning Center, Promoting Safe and Stable Act Funds, and a private grant from Niagara Bottling Company’s Niagara Cares.

Thaddeus Lane, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity member, said that he feels that it is about “men being committed to the development of youth and leading by example.”

“This camp gives young boys the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging, unity, and creates a belief that they can reach their full potential,” explained Camp and Program Coordinator, Spencer Logan.

Wayne Gholston, United to Empower member expressed enjoyment at being able to help and described one of his favorite parts of the camp as, “engaging in bonding sessions with the youth during camp planning”.

Boys 2 Men Connection Camp 2018

Volunteer Isaac Jones summed up the purpose and goal of the camp, saying, “The camp helps boys of today to become better men – to make the world a better place to live in the future.”

Copyright 2018 by Womack Publishing
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