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Halifax County school board calendar committee expands to 18

The Halifax County School Board’s calendar committee — responsible for setting the daily schedule from the first day of school to the last — is getting larger.

Banister River clean-up float slated Sept. 22

‘Make sure the dollars are there,’ supes urged

Chamber director voices support for raising school construction budget


Comets finish strong behind Franklin in district match





Lessons for Life

South Boston News
Joshua Barley learns the art of tying a Windsor knot from his mentor, Harry Stephens. / October 12, 2017
Inside the spacious hall Saturday at American Legion Post 99 in Sinai, two crisply-dressed Army officers — Command Sgt. Maj. Dakhalfani Boyd and Sgt. 1st Class Cedric Bailey — tackled an atypical assignment: teaching a dozen middle and high school-aged youth how to tie a necktie.

Handing out ties to each of the youths present, the two soldiers led a “hands-on” tutorial on a life skill that at least some of the boys had never been exposed to before: how to dress for a formal occasion. Working in pairs — with each other, with their parents, with Boyd and Bailey — several of the youth struggled to get their ties on correctly. Furrowed brows, pursed lips, exasperation: eventually, with help and encouragement, the youths got it right. For their efforts, they got to keep the ties.

The occasion was Boys2Men, a program hosted Sept. 30 at Post 99 by the Halifax County Mentor Role Model program. Bailey and Boyd, both active military, founded an outreach program, Spoken Exchange, to help youth and adults learn how to present themselves in a positive light. They also teach critical skills of self-confidence and resilience. On Saturday, their outreach work brought them to Halifax County for the Mentor Role Model program.

The two military men sought to impress upon their young listeners the importance of living out positive values through everyday actions, in ways as ordinary as showing good manners. “It’s all about empowerment, the ability to influence how people respond to you and treat you,” said Bailey. This led to discussions about how the youth choose to present themselves to the world. “You are a billboard that announces who you are without even opening your mouth,” said Boyd.

Added Bailey: “How you dress, no matter the occasion, will send a message.”

“Your actions define who you are,” Bailey continued. Suggestions to the youth included complimenting others and offering a helping hand. Even something as simple as a handshake becomes important: Bailey demonstrated the right and wrong types of handshakes and gave several of the boys a chance to practice with them. The final topic before lunch was resilience. Both speakers shared experiences where resilience had turned their lives around, and then the boys had the chance to share their own stories if they wanted to.

Though the room remained quiet during the presentation — the attention of the boys and their parents remained fixed on the speakers, not themselves, nor their smartphones or other distractions — the invitation for the boys to share their experiences spurred a group discussion that became more animated as the morning afternoon went on.

Among the young attendees was Jamal Brandon, a senior at Halifax High School, a member of JROTC, and a star Comet football player. Accompanied by his mom, Nakisha, Brandon spoke of his dream of earning a college scholarship and a chance to play football after high school. Acknowledging that he is “someone that other students look up to”, the Comet standout said he embraces the “power to make it a good day or a bad day in class …” Brandon said he wished that the entire football team could have joined him for the program.

Joshua Barley, an eighth-grade student at Halifax County Middle School, attended with his mentor Harry Stephens. Soft-spoken and thoughtful, with the bearing of a young scientist-in-training, Barley said his dream is to design cars. Asked why he attended the program, Barley did not hesitate: “To learn about myself … learn to be a man, a gentleman, and learn about life.” Stephens said he appreciated the speakers’ focus on imparting critical life skills not generally taught anywhere else.

Saturday’s event also drew an adult participant, Halifax County High School football coach Grayson Throckmorton. Wryly observing that he was there “for the benefit of me,” Throckmorton sought to reinforce the message delivered by the two Army officers: Self-respect, resilience and positive values are necessary for success in sports and in life. The Comet football program works with its players to instill those principles, too.

Angela Yancey, director of Mentor Role Model, arranged Saturday’s event. Yancey has organized many “esteem” focused programs for girls, but admits that doing the same for boys has been a challenge. Out of 128 mentees referred to her organization, most are female. Yancey believes girls naturally get more undivided attention, but that for boys, it is assumed “he’s a boy, he’ll be okay.”

Aware of the need, and worried about at-risk boys falling through the cracks, Yancey created the Boys2Men program under the Mentor Role Model umbrella. She enlisted the help of 1st Sgt. Greg Scott, drill coordinator for Halifax High School’s JROTC program. Scott’s friendships with the visiting Army officers made Saturday’s event possible.

Bailey and Boyd teamed up to form Spoken Exchange about a year ago. One night, over dinner, they shared experiences and talked about the common life challenges that youth and adults alike share with them. Vowing to “do something,” they agreed to use their free time going around and speaking to youth groups, and Spoken Exchange was born. Part of their outreach involves conducting seminars such as the one in Halifax County on Saturday.

Both men praised the youth who attended as being smart and self-aware. Asked what they hoped the boys would walk away with, Bailey said: “If they grab one thing from the presentation and use it now, we consider it a win.”

And what benefit do the speakers gain from the experience? “Touching a life,” Boyd quickly replied. Another program with Boyd and Bailey is in the works — for spring.

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