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Teen boys hear message of leadership

Mar. 08, 2013 @ 06:44 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Marques Hairston knows he could be somewhere other than Marshall University. The senior from Beckley said with a father in jail, he could have easily followed down the same path.

Thanks to supportive grandparents, he chose the high road. And Thursday, he was among several members of My Brother's Keeper to help lead workshops at E.M.B.O.D.I., a program developed by the national Delta Sigma Theta Sorority as a support for sons of its members.

"Empowering Males to Build Opportunities for Developing Independence" was presented Thursday at Marshall with collaboration through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, with 70 students in seventh through 12th grades from Cabell County and some from Ohio.

Teens are targeted because it is at this time when they need to focus on their futures and how to transform into a responsible and independent man after high school, said Mary Clark, a program director in Multicultural Affairs and lead organizer of the event.

"We want to show them what it takes to be a man," said Jesse Kabundji, a sophomore at Mountwest Community and Technical College. "We don't want them to end up on the streets. The whole purpose is to lift up youth."

Kabundji said that although he had the support of both parents, he needed them and some other relatives to remind him of his potential and the importance of a college education.

"I remember after high school things going downhill, but I had a support system," he said.

He said he knows he is fortunate to have had that type of home life and knows some of the boys taking part in the event don't have that.

But, he said he and other men throughout the community will step into that role, if even for a day, to help them become men and learn to take responsibility.

The event included keynote speaker Bobby L. Robinson, who is in his 20th year with State Farm and also an ordained minister who leads children at his church.

The workshops included basic management of money, critical thinking, leadership, having a plan B and how to be selfless.

"Data suggest that a great many young males, particularly those of African American, multicultural or ethnically diverse descent, are not reaching their fullest potential," added Shari Clarke, vice president of Multicultural Affairs. "This program is one way we are taking action to address the needs of these young men."

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