Mentors and the mentored attended a celebration dinner Thursday at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. From Suffolk’s Men of Distinction mentoring program are Lakeland High School students senior Scott Holland, junior Brandon Clark, senior Calvin Bowe, junior Deonte Brock, senior De-Angelo Wicks, and the boys’ mentor, veteran U.S. Air Force Sgt. Selwyn Curtis.

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Helping youth make better choices

Published 11:01pm Friday, February 1, 2013

A special dinner at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Thursday encouraged local citizens to mentor a young person and celebrated those who already do.

On what was the final day of National Mentoring Month, a large group of citizens at the city Department of Parks and Recreation event were told of the positive impact mentoring has on at-risk youth and the rewards mentors themselves experience.

“This year’s theme (of National Mentoring Month) is ‘Mentoring Works’ … (and) mentoring does work,” said event speaker Ashley Sessoms of 757 Protégé-Suffolk Mentoring, which coordinates mentoring. “The results speak for themselves.”

“We want to express the importance to those in attendance (of) how important mentoring is,” she added.

Successful people in the public eye, like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates, wouldn’t have reached the heights that they have without mentoring when they were younger, she said.

Attendees at the dinner were from several mentoring programs operating in Suffolk schools and beyond, including Young Men of Distinction, Charming Young Ladies and Y2K Academy.

The latter program’s founder, Dr. Princella Johnson, said mentoring provides guidance for children who “may be stumbling off the pathway that’s going to be successful for them.

“It can make a difference between choices that are beneficial or detrimental. They (mentors) don’t tell kids what to do, but are advisors.”

Lakeland High School senior De-Angelo Wicks addressed the dinner guests about his experience with Young Men of Distinction.

He said his mentor, veteran U.S. Air Force Sgt. Selwyn Curtis, has been “very influential” in his life.

“He started a lot of changes in my life,” Wicks said. “He taught me about a lot of things — social things — that I will never forget.”

Speaking later, Wicks said his discussions with Curtis are “not just a weekly thing, I talk to him daily.

“He has so much wisdom. You can get wisdom from other people, but it’s nothing like when Sarge comes at you. He’s a real man; he doesn’t sugar coat it. He doesn’t hold anything back.”

The mentoring program he’s a part of has 10 boys, Wicks said, and “Sarge” works with all of them. “When I asked him to be our sponsor, he jumped at the opportunity, and he’s taken it head-on,” Wicks said.

For more information about becoming a mentor, call or email Ashley Sessoms at 514-7244 or asessoms@suffolkva.us.

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