More than 100 volunteers fanned out to Dayton Public Schools classrooms Wednesday morning, talking to black male students about paths to success, as part of Dayton’s Men of Color initiative.
Men of Color is a local effort to introduce positive role models to local students. At Dunbar Early College High School, Dayton police officer Terry Perdue and Dayton Municipal Court bailiff Chuck Taylor talked to students about opportunities.
“The kids wanted to know how I got started, as far as graduating from high school, how I got into college, and how I got my job,” said Taylor, who is also a longtime coach and mentor. “I have the opportunity to see the bad side at work, and I see these guys who need some guidance. That’s all they need – just a focus and somebody to talk to and get them on the right track.”
Several Dunbar seniors said the effort had a positive impact. Wesley McDaniel called Wednesday’s speakers “heroes” who gave him confidence in his future. Anthony Stegall said they helped him understand how people his age can help fix their own communities by improving themselves and helping others.
“I’m from Dayton View, which is a very tough neighborhood,” said Dunbar senior Tajaun Cobbins. “It’s always good to see black people like myself who overcome obstacles. They’re doing good, so I feel like I can do the same things.”
City Commissioner Jeff Mims, chairman of the Men of Color Committee, told a room full of Dunbar seniors how important it was for young black men to live up to the goals and aspirations of their parents, their community and themselves.
“We adults have not done the best job in creating conditions for you to be successful,” Mims said. “But understand that doesn’t give us an excuse not to do our best. We all have a responsibility to do our best.”
Dunbar has produced two Dayton mayors, and one of them, Richard Clay Dixon, told the students they truly can be anything they choose to be. Perdue also told his personal story of going from troubled kid to college graduate, police officer and community leader.
“The main reason I jumped on this initiative is because I was a student who skipped 60 days a year and spent five years in high school,” said Perdue, a 1998 Dunbar graduate. “After high school I was arrested, and I made some bad decisions. … So it’s my responsibility to come in here, get to know these young people and give back in whatever way I can.”
Perdue said the students just wanted to spend time with a positive male figure who was willing to listen. His message resonated with some students.
“We all have done some bad stuff in our lives,” said Dunbar senior Robert Hill, who is in the Army reserves and has his eye on college next. “To see that they did bad stuff too and made it out and became successful, that’s more effective, rather than seeing somebody who just had it good all of their life. These people came from where we’re sitting right now and made something out of themselves. That helps a lot.”
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