CCHS Young Men of HOPE Class of 2023 Honored at Graduation Brunch


Written by: Min. Anna Stevens Bright

In the words of American artistic gymnast, winner of seven Olympic medals, and a recipient of the 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Simone Biles Owens, “I would say to always follow your dream. And dream big because my whole career, including any of the things that I’ve accomplished, I never thought in a million years that I would be here. So it just proves that once you believe in yourself, and you put your mind to something, you can do it.” That being said, 15 male students, who have been a part of the Young Men of Hope (YMOH) since the fifth grade, will be walking across the stage with their heads held high on June 3, 2023, at Colleton County High School Stadium to receive their diplomas. They followed their dreams and are ready to move on with their chosen future plans. These YMOH Stars, Students Taking Academic Responsibility, were honored with a graduation brunch at Fat Jack’s Restaurant on Thursday, May 11, along with their parents, grandparents, and special guests.

Dr. Queenie L. Crawford, President of the Institute of Hope for Excellency, Inc. and retired Colleton County School District Administrator, gave the welcome. The attendees were led in prayer by Councilman Phillip Taylor. Mr. Cornelius Hamilton, Student Achievement Facilitator for YMOH, gave reflections. He indicated that he has watched these young men grow from children to high school seniors. As he reflected on his time with these students, he had them to chant, “I am a young man of hope. I will strive to make good, sound decisions…” Further, he encouraged them to set goals, have options and strength, and work towards becoming great. Mr. Hamilton suggested that they read the book, Good to Great.

Each one of these young men was given a clock as a special gift from Dr. Crawford. In her remarks during this presentation, she told them that time is unpredictable, once time is gone, it can never be recovered, time will go on, and live every minute to the fullest. The gift of the clock was a symbolic reminder for them to use their time wisely.

Dr. Crawford shared the students’ future plans and what they remembered most about being a part of YMOH. Five of these YMOH Stars have been accepted and will be enrolling in college during the fall of 2023. For the first time in the history of the organization, these students will each receive a $200 scholarship, in addition to any other scholarships/financial aid they will be receiving. The other young men plan to enter the workforce/the military. Some of them are looking forward to careers in welding, as a result of their many exposure trips to technical colleges and career centers, including our local Thunderbolt Career and Technology Center.

The YMOH Shining Star award was presented to special guest, Dr. Harold M. Rhodes, III. “He has been a consistent supporter since the organization’s inception in 2015,” stated Dr. Crawford. His financial support helps to pay for educational trips for these students. During Dr. Rhodes’ remarks to these young men, he shared his experience with a 12th grade counselor who told him that he wasn’t going anywhere. Her condescending remarks propelled him to work even harder to excel. Dr. Rhodes is a successful dentist who owns a dental practice in Colleton County, where he grew up and graduated from high school. He told the students in his remarks to be respectful, watch what they do and that they are going to make a contribution to society. At the brunch Dr. Rhodes announced that he would be donating a check in the amount of $1500, a graduation gift of $100 for each of the YMOH Stars. In jest and seriousness, Dr. Crawford informed the students that she would be giving them their $100 gift each, from Dr. Rhodes, once they graduate on June 3!

Other guests attending the brunch were Mr. Shon Johnson, CCHS JAG Program Advisor; Mr. Dominic Kahee, CCHS 9th Grade Guidance Counselor; Min. Anna S. Bright, retired CCSD English teacher, part-time teacher at CAS, minister, and journalist; and Mr. Herman G. Bright, retired CCSD administrator, former band director, and retired United States Army veteran.

Congratulations and best wishes to the 2023 Young Men of Hope Graduates: Jamar Brown, Jabori Ferguson, Niigel Ferguson, Landon Garvin, Garry Goff, Derrick Green, Angel Morales-Gonzalez, Kristian Murray, Nasir Pencile, Ronnie Rumph, Jayden Salley, Dorian Stephens, Jaquez Stephens, Trequan Stokes, and Jahmari Washington! The goals of Young Men of HOPE (YMOH) 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.

“Helping Others Pursue Excellence” is their motto.