We're Pulling for You, Local Leaders Tell Young Men

Jan. 27, 2008 — Some of the brothers of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity spoke passionately Saturday about guns, knives and the loss of young men's lives, addressing boys attending the first Go-to-High School, Go-to-College seminar.
Others told how they overcame obstacles to achieve success even though they grew up in the projects. Cornelius D. Williams Jr., assistant attorney general, told the boys his wish is never to see them in his courtroom or the hospital, and never to see their families in the morgue.
"We feel like we are losing you," said Frank Abednego, human resources manager for Turner at Hovensa. "You all are very important to us. We care about you."
The local Iota Sigma Lambda Chapter and the Rotary Club of St. Croix hosted the seminar. Thirty-seven boys ages 13 to 19 attended the event at Gertrude's Restaurant. It offered information and tools for young males to use to succeed in high school and go on to higher education.
The students, dressed in big polo shirts, T-shirts and baggy pants, sat in groups with their classmates. The boys from Central High School were on one side of the room, with St. Croix Educational Complex boys on the other. The junior high boys were mixed in the center.
Xaulanda Simmonds-Emmanuel, vice president for strategic planning and marketing at Juan F. Luis Hospital, presented the first session. She began her topic on goal setting by asking the youths if they want to make money. All the boys' hands flew up.
"The way to make money is with education, hard work and integrity," Simmonds-Emmanuel said. She asked them to close their eyes, clear their mind and picture where they see themselves when they are grown up.
"Keep that image and goal in your mind," she said.
She proceeded with a PowerPoint presentation on eight steps to achieve success. The eight steps were identifying, values, goals, action plans, motivation, discipline, flexibility and outcome.
"These are baby steps, but they will get you where you want to be," she said.
The Rotary International standard for members, the Four-Way Test, was presented by Liz Goggins, president of the St. Croix Rotary club.
Goggins touched on each aspect of the test, which led into discussions on truth, fairness, goodwill and friendship.
The last question Rotarians are asked when they consider a decision is if it is beneficial to all concerned.
Goggins brought the abstract concepts home to the boys with a discussion concerning a track coach appointing his son captain of the team when he couldn't even run fast.
"The boy couldn't run as fast as me," Goggins said before jokingly adding, "And I'm slow."
The boys were able to relate to the unfairness of the situation and wholeheartedly joined in the discussion.
To demonstrate oral communication skills, Simmonds-Emmanuel performed a skit on job interviews done incorrectly and how they could be corrected. The boys got a kick out of it, because the lady was so lackadaisical during the interview, answering her phone, playing with her hair and not putting her best foot forward.
Simmonds-Emmanuel told the group about three communication styles: passive, aggressive and assertive. Then she asked them which styles they saw in the interview.
Offering the young men information on productive study skills were teachers Paulina Croskey from Ricardo Richards Elementary and Retse Johnson from Alexander Henderson Elementary.
Neil Canton, past president of the fraternity, said seminar organizers met their target set for attendance. Boys were advised to attend by guidance counselors, social workers and parents. One drawback Canton sees is with parental information.
"We need to do a meet-and-greet to let the parents know what we are doing for the boys," he said.
At the end of the seminar, the fraternity brothers gave closing remarks.
Abednego gave a strong closing message to the boys: "You guys aren't getting your act together. I can't find qualified employees for Hovensa."
Businesses are giving up on high school students and going to the junior high level to prepare them for employment, he said.
Williams addressed violence in his closing remarks.
"I want you to help us get guns out of school," he said. "You won't be snitches."
Alpha Phi Alpha is the first fraternity established by African-Americans, begun in 1906 at Cornell University in New York. Locally it has put together nationally recognized programs, such as Project Alpha, geared to enlightening young men on teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the treatment of women. In the fall it will be present a program called Voteless People — Hopeless People.
"I am pleased that we got the message across to the kids," said Robert Molloy, president of the fraternity. "The content of the seminar was very good."
One of the participants, Kadeem Leon, said, "I have learned there are ways to broaden my horizons, and ways to make things better in life."
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