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Raising Successful Sons in the 21st Century

Boyz to Gentlemen attendeesThe Charleston County School District (CCSD) acknowledges the promise and potential in young boys and sought ways to empower them and equip parents with the tools necessary to help them succeed. CCSD’s Office of Community Outreach hosted its 4th Annual From Boyz to Gentlemen Summit, Saturday, January 12, 2013, at West Ashley High School. Boys ranging from first through twelfth grades were in attendance, and received lessons on leadership, respect, and achieving greatness in the face of adversity. The informational Summit was led by Director of Community Outreach Programs, Dr. Brenda Nelson.

Parents received insight from influential community leaders that highlighted the theme: Boyz to Gentlemen presenters with Dr. Nelson“Raising Successful Sons in the 21st Century.” During Q & A portions of the session, many ladies touched on the challenges of being a single mother and properly rearing their sons. C.E. Williams Middle School Principal, Kevin Smith shared, “Excellence is not a color or a tax bracket. Excellence is an expectation.” Smith urged parents to set the bar high for young males, so they could start at that level; giving them motivation to exceed even higher expectations. Dr. Nancy McGinley, CCSD Superintendent, encouraged parents to continue to guide their children "on the straight and narrow" by preparing them for a future they haven't before seen, and inspiring them to be better leaders than we. She reminded parents to be cautious about the way they responded to their children’s mistakes, saying, “Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.” Mistakes are part of the learning experiences of life.

Versatility was a reoccurring message that the teenage boys received in their separate sessions at the Summit. They were taught to think outside the box and lead in a positive manner, by example.

Violinist Daniel DavisFormer CCSD student, Daniel Davis, 22, wowed the audience with a contemporary performance on the electric violin. Davis captivated parents and children alike--they held up their phones to capture video footage and were awe-struck by his talent. Heads bobbed, feet tapped, and bodies swayed to familiar tunes: “God In Me” (Mary Mary), “Turn On the Lights” (Future), and "Billie Jean" (Michael Jackson). Many of the boys in attendance said that they were amazed that Davis seemed “so cool” and made playing the violin “look fun.” Davis said that he knows that he does not look like the typical violinist, but he wants the young people of today to feel good about stepping outside their comfort zone. He wants youth to know that “all things are possible.”

A lesson in school conduct and etiquette was a topic that seemed to grasp the attention of the middle and high school aged boys. A popular debate was fashion. These young men wanted toBoyz to Gentlemen attendees enhance their “swag” by wearing hoodies and hats while in school, but Principal Smith (C.E. Williams) along with some other adult volunteers, helped the boys realize that gentlemen must dress appropriately and should adhere to etiquette rules inside a building. Many of the young men expressed interest in higher education and competing in the job market upon graduation. They began to understand that in order to be taken seriously, they were going to have to look the part. Setting goals, use of proper grammar, and the practice of continued reading were some other pieces of advice that panelists highlighted. The young men were astonished to hear the statistics illustrating that their literacy levels were lower than their female counterparts.

Principal Kevin Smith, presenterSeeing successful male role models who hold various careers, titles and roles in the community solidified the notion that being an entertainer or sports star were not the only options for minority boys. Panelists included: Dr. Virgil Alfaro (Opthamologist), Terry Base (Radio Broadcaster), Reginald Burgess (Commander of Special Investigations Division as Deputy Chief), Maurice Cannon (Principal, Burke Middle-High School), Dr. Yvonne Commodore (Principal, Lincoln Middle High School), John Frasier, Xavier Fontanez (Business Owner), Clifford Fulmore, Minister Lionel Hartwell (Youth Pastor, Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church), Raphael James (WCSC Live 5 News Anchor), James McCloud (Leasing Agent), Ronald Metrejean (Gang Intervention Unit Officer), Jamal Middleton (Entrepreneur and civic leader), Reverend Ronald Nelson (Pastor, Charity Missionary Baptist Church), Jermel President (Founder, DAE Foundation), Kevin Smith (Principal,Boyz to Gentlemen attendees studying college materials C.E. Williams Middle School), and Dr. Joe Williams (Principal, Morningside Middle School).

These role models offered their time and guidance to help the young gentlemen learn how to make sound decisions in order to succeed. Confident about the long-term impact, Dr. Brenda Nelson said, “For our young men, the 2013 Summit provided them with another great opportunity to be exposed to successful men of color, and to be affirmed; and as a result of the opportunity to visit with college representatives and interact with fraternity members, they will begin to create a vision for post-secondary education.”