"It wasn't about where you come from but it is about where you are headed."

Anybody can be your daddy but it takes a real man to be your father.  Those were the words of Tyion Berry, a 17-year-old junior at Stuttgart High School who takes part in the Kelly Hobbs Mentoring Program (KHMP) that meets once a week at Stuttgart High School.

Community Outreach Programs for our Youth (COPY), directed and founded by LaTaaka Harvey, added KHMP in January as an extension of COPY.  Paul Colvin, who is the School Resource Officer, saw the need for mentorship and had the passion to fill that void as a positive male role model for young men. “I grew up in a single family household and even though my mom did the best she could to fill both roles, it was my grandfather, Kelly Hobbs, who stepped in, grabbed me by the hand and taught me how to be a man,” said Colvin.

 The program is geared for young men from, grades 10 – 12, who are willing to receive the help and empowerment towards becoming a better person. This is done by teaching the young men how to conduct themselves in a business, educational, and community environment through providing resources such as personal grooming, speech etiquette, character building, interviewing skills, resume writing, team building, volunteerism, college & career exposure, coping skills, and anger management. 

Thomas McCastle, Social Development Manager of Job Corps which helps students ages 16 to 24 learn skills to help start a career, spoke to the young men on Thursday, April 19 about the game of life. “We can’t change who our mothers and fathers are,” said McCastle. “We can’t change their economic status but we can change ourselves through education and taking advantage of opportunities. You can change where you go from here.”

Using playing cards, McCastle distributed a king and queen card to the few in the group who were being raised by both parents.  The other young men were given either a king or queen card if they were raised in a single-family household or by a family member other than their biological parent. “Now look at your cards,” said McCastle. “Do the cards in your hand make you any better than the person next to you because of the way they were raised?” In unison the group said no, understanding it wasn’t about where you come from but it is about where you are headed.

McCastle explained the obstacles that the young men should refrain from such as sex, drugs, and dropping out of school. “This generation is facing more problems each day,” said McCastle.  “I want to put something on their mind that just because you are where you are doesn’t mean that’s where you have to end up staying.”

McCastle who is from Arkansas County says he hopes the young men paid attention so in the future they are not still dealing with the same deck of cards. “When I go home and see some of my classmates in the same predicament they were in when we were younger, it’s because they chose not to change the cards they were dealt,” said McCastle. “I don’t want these young men to go through the same thing.”

Berry who says he is thankful for the father figure program also mentions the mentoring program is helping him, thanks to the mistakes the guest speakers talk about that they made. “I listen to their mistakes and what happened to them so I know what not to do,” said Berry. “ I’ve learned to also have patience and not to let people get to me because that can really mess my life up.”

Participants attend the mentoring program on a volunteer base every Thursday during lunch and activity period. “Mr. Colvin’s efforts are supported by the building principal and staff for the betterment of individuals and Stuttgart High School’s environment,” said Harvey. “A variety of resources, speakers and opportunities are provided to those young men who are apart of this program.  A sense of friendship and fellowships are also being developed amongst these young men.”

A $500 Wal-Mart Community Grant was awarded to help the program get started. If you would like to help with monetary donations or resources, please contact LaTaaka Harvey, Founder/Director of COPY at copy2008ar@yahoo.com, mail to PO Box 524, Stuttgart, AR  72160, or 870-672-3324 (text or call). 

“ I want to thank the community for supporting my vision and COPY’s,” said Colvin. “I am an example of someone who changed the cards they were dealt and hopefully these young men received the message and will make the right choices throughout their life.”