• 43°

Greatness celebrated at Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington Elementary School students gathered on Monday for the “Dress for Greatness” luncheon organized by Enlightened Minds Mentoring.

Male students at the school were well-dressed and enjoyed a Subway lunch provided by The Mount Suffolk, with Minister Karl Wilkins in attendance as well, as they reflected on the progress that they’ve made as young men.

Enlightened Minds Mentoring helps elementary to high school age males, including 70 Booker T. Washington Elementary students, according to Chief Executive Officer Albert Hill.

It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping shape young men in the Suffolk community through mentoring, financial literacy and other education opportunities that promote positive life choices.

“Mr. Hill, as well as (Enlightened Minds mentor and school security monitor Russell Barnes), have had a very positive impact on our young males when it comes to making good choices and being the best that they can be,” said Principal Chanel Woods. “They are both good, positive male role models.”

The program expanded to include Booker T. Washington Elementary at the beginning of March, and the mentors wanted to celebrate the boys’ accomplishments in that span.

“Each month I just want to award them for their positive behavior, whether they’re small or major,” Hill said. “Because the more you award positive behavior, the more they are going to want to do it.”

It was also important for the students to “dress for greatness” with sharp-looking dress shirts and ties. Each student said what he wants to do when he grows up, whether it was a basketball and football player, soldier, Air Force pilot or professional gamer.

Dr. Deran Whitney, superintendent of Suffolk Public Schools, praised the assembled young men at the Monday luncheon for both their attire and their goals. He also told them to keep in mind what skills they will need in order to pursue their dreams.

“I want you to keep in mind that every career that you think of … there’s skills that you must master in order to be eligible for that particular career — whether it’s football, whether it’s Air Force or whatever —and you’re on the right track,” Whitney said. “Because you’re listening, you’re thinking critically, you’re practicing. You’re doing the right things now.”

Hill said that life is about cycles. People’s positive actions bring positivity to their lives just as much as their negativity circles right back to them. He and the other mentors want to foster a positive trend with these young men to help them realize their potential.

“We have to break the cycle of negativity of behavior, break the cycle of disrespect (and) noncompliance, and replace that with positive behavior so they can continue to do those things and get those things back to them,” he said.