A community rallies behind Honorable Young Men's Club

Saturday, June 16, 2018
Honorable Young Men's Club leader Cantrell Andrews, left, teaches Lemuel Gilbert, 11, to keep his desk tidy Sept. 19, 2017 at Central Middle School in Cape Girardeau.
Ben Matthews

Kids need a mom and dad actively involved in their lives. Years ago that would have been a given. But in today's culture, it's an important reminder.

The role each parent plays in child rearing not only affects youngsters in their formative years, but it makes a difference in our culture for generations.

NPR did an interview with author Alan Blankstein last year regarding kids without an active father in the home.

Blankstein said fatherlessness affects children, regardless of whether you have a son or daughter. However, some of the signs differ between the two.

"The research that I've seen says that girls are twice as likely to suffer from obesity without the father present," Blankstein said. "They're four-times more likely to get pregnant as teenagers. Boys are more likely to act out, which is why we're more aware [of how they're affected], but if a young girl is imploding, we don' t see it."

Locally there are a number of groups who do great work to mentor kids. One successful organization is called the Honorable Young Men's Club. This club provides mentorship to at-risk boys at the Cape Girardeau Central Middle and Junior High Schools.

What started as a volunteer project in fall 2016 has become something more for mentors Aaron Adeoye, Cantrell Andrews, Kweku Arkorfol and Wyky Jeann. These men saw a need in showing boys what it means to be a man. That it's cool to wear a shirt and tie. That honorable men stay off the streets and away from trouble. But it's so much more.

After the first semester, the school district recognized the value and now all four men work on staff teaching life skills and helping teach the boys important values and skills.

But what happens when the summer starts and schools take a break? The club's leaders wanted to find a way for the boys to stay involved, out of trouble and continue the mentorship.

To help offset costs associated with various activities, the organization applied for a $4,500 grant. Though they took the lead in early voting, HYMC did not come out on top and missed out on the grant funds.

Real estate agent and Cape Girardeau School District board member Jared Ritter was disappointed -- but not deterred. Ritter started a fundraiser on Facebook that as of this writing Friday morning raised $9,715 from individuals plus another $4,500 from Codefi to bring the total to $14,215.

The online fundraiser is wrapping up, but those who want to donate can do so through the Cape Girardeau Public School Foundation.

It's not unusual for this community to raise money for important causes. The Southeast Missourian regularly runs photos in our Good Times section each weekend highlighting these generous acts. It is inspiring to see so many supporters rally together, whether through small or large donations, to fund the club's summer programs.

Arkorfol said HYMC started with 35-40 kids. Now, more than 170 middle school boys are involved. Designed initially for at-risk kids, Arkorfol said the boys come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some do not have a father at home. Others may have a father actively involved but whose long work hours prevent him from spending as much time as he would like with his child.

Hats off to all the mentors, community leaders and volunteers who have invested time and resources toward helping young boys become men of character.

On a personal note, I'd like to wish a happy Father's Day to my father.

The values you've instilled in me of hard work, love of family and faith in Jesus Christ deserve more than one day a year of appreciation.

Thank you for your love and care (along with the countless hours of playing catch in the back yard) and modeling what being a man looks like.

It's a gift I do not take for granted.

Happy Father's Day.

Lucas Presson is the assistant publisher of the Southeast Missourian.

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