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Young Men of HOPE celebrate with luncheon

by | June 7, 2019 5:00 pm

Last Updated: June 5, 2019 at 1:10 pm

By ANNA STEPHENS BRIGHT
abrightcolumn@lowcountry.com

Photos by HERMAN G. BRIGHT

On May 17, a group of young men in the Men of Distinction Program from the CCHS Class of 2019 — who started on this journey with the Young Men of HOPE in the fifth grade — celebrated with a graduation luncheon at Shoney’s, hosted by Dr. Queenie Crawford, Cornelius Hamilton and Shon Johnson.
The Institute of HOPE for Excellency Inc., whose goal is Helping Others Pursue Excellence, is led by Dr. Crawford, president. Presently the 501c3 nonprofit organization sponsors a mentoring group of 92 young men called The Young Men of HOPE (YMOH) at Colleton County Middle School, Bells, Northside and Hendersonville Elementary Schools, as well as Colleton County High School, where the young men transition into the Men of Distinction Program.
Crawford began the program with an introduction and Cornelius Hamilton gave the welcome. “It is a joy to see these young men grow physically, academically and spiritually over the years. Some people have looked at them negatively, but I am proud they are going to be marching across that stage to graduate,” said Hamilton.
Some of the young men reflected on their experiences as a part of the Young Men of HOPE:
 Timothy Wright said, “This organization helped me to keep up my grades. I first started in the sixth grade, and it has been a long journey. It is one of the best support groups that I could have been a part of. It was on a trip with the Ladies of Distinction that helped me to talk to other people and make friends because I would always stay to myself. I will be attending Technical College of the Lowcountry to study architecture, and I thank this organization for all of their support.”
 Terrance Garrett said, “I was a young man trying to find my way in the world when I joined this organization. I plan to become a computer tech game designer.”
 Shykem Chisolm said, “When I first joined the organization, I heard people say, ‘They got all the bad kids to be in it!’ When I got to the high school and transferred to the Men of Distinction, some said the same thing. I never felt that way. This organization kept up with us to keep us on track. They took us on educational trips to expose us to what we could become. Their goal was to work with all the students in the organization to walk with us through high school. I have been accepted to Erskine College with a scholarship to play football.”
Shon Johnson, the advisor for the Men of Distinction at CCHS, delivered the “Moving Forward” address. Excerpts from his message to the members of Young Men of HOPE: “As we have mentored you, you mentor another young man. As a community, stick together. Have your mind set on your goals and dreams. There is somebody’s life you can touch that we may not be able to touch. Set the bar high, and see yourself walking into your goal. There are no duplicates of you. With that fist together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. I have learned more about colleges on the trips to Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina with these young men than I did in high school.”
Crawford and Hamilton presented an engraved graduation plaque, a gift bag and a tube with earbuds to each of the graduates in attendance. After the presentations, Crawford offered the parents attending the opportunity to give remarks.
 Harvey Buckner said, “The world is not going to give you anything; earn what you get, not the fast way. When the school had to call me about my son, I never took his side. I would tell him that the teachers had no reason to lie on him if they had to call me. But I am proud of my son and the other graduates.”
 Horace Garrett gave accolades to the advisors for all they did to expose these young men with all the educational trips. Further, he told all the graduates, “Keep your head in the right direction.”
 Rowena Wright added, “I never had a problem with my son. He has always been a gardener and loves animals, so he always completed his homework at school so that he could do his gardening and take care of the animals when he got home. To all of you, don’t let these 12 years go to waste.”
Members of the Colleton County High School Class of 2019 who were celebrated at this Young Men of HOPE graduation luncheon were Travis S. Buckner, Karon Buckner, Shykem D. Chisolm, Devon M. Farmer, Tywuan Ford, Terrance J. Garrett, Perry L. Mitchell, K’Shawn Salley, Javon T. Williams, Gregory Wilson, and Timothy Wright.
In Crawford’s closing remarks, she mentioned that Councilman Phillip Taylor was instrumental in helping to get this mentoring program started. She acknowledged two of her classmates from the Colleton High School Class of 1966, Gloria Breland and Doretha Wadlington, who assisted with registration for the luncheon. Further she extended special thanks to all of the parents, CCSD Superintendent Dr. Franklin Foster, Principals Maurice Cannon, Laura Behie and Wilsey Hamilton, Dr. Harold Rhodes III, Councilman Phillip Taylor, Herman and Anna Bright, Barry Moore and Cornelius Hamilton.
The goals of Young Men of HOPE are:
• To encourage good attendance.
• To encourage and acknowledge academic progress.
• To inspire positive behavior by developing skills in decision making, conflict resolution, and citizenship.
• To promote a smooth transition from elementary school to middle school.
• To build career awareness with a focus on the value of learning and earning.
• To follow the young men from elementary school through high school graduation.

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