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Star-studded mentoring summit seeks to empower young men

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Published on: Monday, May 06, 2013

By Sarah Hainesworth

Prince George’s County officials and community volunteers are working together to empower area youth.

On Saturday, the first-ever Postive Pathways Mentoring Summit proved a success with more than 600 people filling the auditorium at Bowie State University. The summit, geared towards providing young African-American males with positive influences, was thanks to the efforts of Angela Alsobrooks, state’s attorney for Prince George’s County.

In a letter to the attendees, Alsobrooks explained, “This day presents a unique opportunity for both boys and men in our community to connect with one another. Our men will have a chance to step up and offer to be mentors to boys who need a little guidance to really understand their lives are valuable and they matter. Our boys will have the chance to learn important lessons from the experiences the men in attendance bring to the table.”

The all-day event provided young men with specialized sessions on life choices and mentoring. Parents enjoyed a session on how to raise a healthy son. The young men also had the opportunity to tour the campus of Bowie State University and speak with the school’s CIAA Championship basketball team.

Community organizations such as Men Aiming Higher, Suitland Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, Take Charge Program and many others came out in support of the boys.

Former Dallas Cowboy and Washington Redskin Brigman “Brig” Owens was one of the summits emcees. Owens introduced former Philadelphia Eagle and San Francisco 49er Brian Westbrook. Westbrook, a Fort Washington native and DeMatha High School graduate, taught the boys about the three ingredients to success: hard work, dedication and discipline.

“If you study hard, you’re going to get good grades, and if you work hard, you’re going to be successful,” Westbrook said. “Talent will get you to the top, but character will keep you there.”

During a question and answer session, audience members got to interact with Westbrook. On his decision to leave the NFL, Westbrook answered, “I’m 33, my body has failed me, but that education I talked about from Villanova, I still have that.”

Bowie State President Mickey Burnim was proud to host the event on campus.

“We believe the vision [Angela] Alsobrooks had for the summit is vitally important,” he said. “We want you to know that we at Bowie State University care about you as well.”

Robert Griffin II, father of Washington Redskin quarterback Robert Griffin III, surprised the crowd with a few words.

“I came from a humble beginning,” he said. Griffin II, who recently purchased a home in Prince George’s County, continued, “I’ve been giving back to the youth since I left New Orleans, expect to see me.”

United Way of the National Capital Area was a signature partner of the summit. Senior Director, Euniesha Davis, encouraged the young men.

“Young men, today is all about you. We want you to make good choices, positive choices,” Davis said. “Every day I tell my son, ‘You are special. Whatever it is that you are going to be, you are going to be the best.’ As a community, we love you, we are behind you and we are going to be there until you do whatever it is that is great.”

Leon Harris of WJLA informed the young men of his upbringing prior to introducing the keynote speaker.

“I lived in a neighborhood where it wasn’t cool to read books,” he said. “Thankfully there were men who stepped into my life at the right time. I won a national merit scholarship and I was the first boy on that street to go to college.”

The keynote speaker was Judge Greg Mathis who began his speech with praise for Alsobrooks.

“Most state’s attorneys focus on locking our young men up,” Mathis said. “Instead, we have a state’s attorney who is focused on lifting them up.”

Mathis said he got into trouble as a teen but advised the young men not to go down that path.

“The hood is a dangerous place,” said Mathis, who decided to turn his life around after he saw how he was hurting his mother.

Mathis advised the young men to follow their mentors’ examples.

“They are the ones you need to follow,” he said. “They are your examples, not what you see on television, not what you see in these videos because all these guys we think stay in the hood, they don’t live in the hood. T.I. lives in the suburbs in a mansion in Atlanta. Snoop lives in the suburbs of California. These guys either left the hood and transformed their lives, or they were nothing but studio gangsters in the first place. Suge Knight, Death Row Records, he went to college, college boy. Puffy, college boy. Russell Simmons, the founder of hip hop some would say, a college man.”

The judge continued, “These young men think that being tough is walking around shooting and killing each other. Fight against the real enemy and the real enemy is anyone who stands in the way of your progress and success.”

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