Don’t give up. Failure is not an option. Keep pushing. Stay in school. Make good grades. Do the right thing. Keep your record clean.
Those were some of the pieces of advice that Navy Lt. Commander David Coleman passed along to the young people who came to Lincoln Middle School on Saturday morning as participants in the 40 Days of Non-Violence event.
The program offers a variety of activities involving health, education and career opportunities. The purpose is to instill a spirit of hope, self-worth and pride. The ideology behind the program is that by giving the young people plenty to do, crime will be reduced.
First-responders talked to them about the things they have to do to be successful in life and to pursue careers in jobs like theirs. This was followed by lunch and then a chance to learn tennis from representatives of the U.S. Tennis Association and golf from golfing pro Dan Polites.
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Coleman talked to the youth about the beneficial training they could receive as members of the military, whether they wanted to be doctors, lawyers, mechanical engineers or whatever.
“All opportunities are available,” he said. Coleman said the military could be the place where they learn the discipline they need to go to college as well as the means to pay for it. ”When you’re finished, your college education is paid 100 percent.”
Coleman said he decided to get involved in the program, because youths “are our future and present, but for certain our future. We have to keep them focused. They need education and someone to care about them if we want them to be successful.”
Another message from Coleman was the importance of “keeping your record clean.”
We want them to know that all policemen are not bad. Most of us are out here doing our jobs the right way.
Luther Woods, a school resource officer with the East St. Louis Police Department
Luther Woods, a school resource officer with the East St. Louis Police Department, said his mission in engaging with the young people “was to establish a rapport with them.”
“We want them to know that all policemen are not bad. Most of us are out here doing our jobs the right way. We want them to understand what we have to do as police officers...what our responsibilities are. We are here for them,” Woods said.
He added, “One girl said she didn’t like the police because her father was shot and killed and the police didn’t find out who did it. The police can only do so much. A lot of people see things and won’t talk to the police. If you’re one of those people who saw something, we need you to call the police.”
Woods said the “no-snitch code has to stop.”
Amid the crowd was East St. Louis School District 189 teacher Martisha Smith. She was tutoring one of her students at Gordon Bush Middle School, Roosevelt Robinson, in math.
In the gymnasium, the young people took their best golf swings at birdie balls, which are the balls used by beginners.
Polites, who is owner of DP Golf Center in Swansea, said golf teaches individuals the values of life, social skills and life skills.
“Kids are like sponges. They take in a lot very quickly. Look around you at these kids. They’re having fun and some of them are really good,” Polites said.
Jakaurya Wilson, 17, a student at East St. Louis Senior High, said, “I really enjoy playing the game of golf. It’s a great way to learn a new skill.”
Many of the young people said they want to be like Tiger Woods. Tajahuan Wilson, 12 , a sixth-grader at Lincoln Middle, and Jody Gomiller, an eight-grader at Lincoln, said they were having a great time learning the game of golf and were happy that Polites was in East St. Louis teaching them the game. Tennis and golf will be taught to the young people in East St. Louis through March.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503