Passport to manhood

Published 9:00 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life can be disappointing and unfulfilling for a teenage boy whose idea of a successful manhood has been formed by Hollywood.

Many young men today, says Reggie Carter, have a distorted view of relationships they have gleaned from music-video images of flashy cars, fistfuls of cash and degrading treatment of women.

“There are so many messages teens are receiving these days that I think it’s important for someone to step up and be a voice and moral compass,” said Carter, director of the Suffolk Boys and Girls Club.

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To give students perspective on life, the Suffolk branch of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Virginia is beginning its 14-week “Passport to Manhood” program on Oct 6.

The program is geared toward boys 11-14 years old and will meet every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Middle School, where the club is located.

“We’ll go over different topics that are particularly relevant to become a successful individual in life,” Carter said, naming such issues as leadership, diversity, decision-making, ethics, physical health, authority, relationships, fatherhood, employment, conflict resolution and the like.

“Media streams tell you to treat a young lady like a piece of property, as though she’s yours to take or dispose of,” Carter said. “That’s not reality. You won’t find a successful relationship that is like that, but teens suck all that right up. It’s a distorted vision of reality. They see the money, cars, fame and girls and think that’s the way to go.”

In addition to weekly lessons, successful men in the community will share their tips on life with the boys.

“We have some very well-respected men in our community that have volunteered to come speak to our group,” Carter said. “We’re excited about that. The more our young men see everyday guys — not the unattainable athlete — and the more positive advice and influence they receive, the better.”

Part of that advice will be coming from Carter, who will share some of his lessons with the young men.

“I made some bad choices and mistakes in my life,” Carter said. “But that doesn’t mean life ends. If you listen to the voices in your life pointing you in the right directions, you can make it. I’m not here because I did everything right, but I persevered.”

The program existed back in 2007, Carter said, but he resurrected it to answer a pressing need in the community.

“Society isn’t in a good place. Our boys aren’t in a good place. The gang problem is on the rise. You can’t avoid it. It is there. We’re losing our boys. We’re just stepping up to do our part.”

For more information call 934-6219.