NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Being a man takes time and commitment. A group of role models started a program in Newport News to get teenagers off the street and into a place where they can accomplish their goals.
There are so many teenagers in our community who have seen a lot — perhaps too much — in such a short time. From being locked up, to being shot, to being the man of the household at 16 years old — This is the story of shaping our youth to be the best versions of themselves. And it’s a thank you to four men who are making a drastic difference.
The program is called “Passport to Manhood.”
Four mentors meet with boys at the Boys and Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula. It’s about inspiring boys to understand and embrace what it takes to grow into productive, caring and responsible men.
Cameron Bertrand, area director of the Boys and Girls Club, said, “The streets out here in Newport News right now — A lot of violence, a lot of crime and I see I have a direct impact on that. I’m able to go a lot of places that a lot of people aren’t.”
The majority of the men in this program don’t have a father figure in their life. In fact, most of these teenagers are the oldest males in their households.
“My dad lives about 100 feet from this Boys and Girls Club. He knows I’m here every day at the same time,” said 18-year-old DeSean Williams. “He knows what I’m doing, but he doesn’t make the effort to come see me. I don’t get a ‘hello,’ a text message. It’s nothing.”
That is one of the reasons why Bertrand, along with Dorion Jackson, Shaka Smith and Deuene Hickman, started Passport to Manhood.