‘Mighty Men of Tomorrow’ pass torch
By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen Post-Tribune correspondent February 14, 2013 3:14PM
John Seabrook (right) smiles at his grandson Nicolas Washington during the Rites of Passage program at the Bernard C. Watson Academy for Boys in Gary. Nicolas, 11, is a fifth-grader at the school. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:53PM
Distinguished men held back tears during a recent rites-of-passage ceremony honoring high achieving fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at the Bernard C. Watson Academy for Boys in Gary.
“A rite of passage represents going from one status to another,” said Leonard Brown, school principal. “It’s a transition of youth to cadets.”
When 28 students wearing all black attire marched into the assembly, nearly 150 applauding supporters stood to their feet.
Local and state law enforcers, firefighters, pastors, elected officials, educators and fathers served a key role during the ceremony.
The community leaders placing “Mighty Men of Tomorrow” purple and gold jackets on each honoree marked the occasion.
In 1991, principal of Washington Elementary School Cordia Moore founded Mighty Men of Tomorrow.
As assistant to the superintendent of the Gary Community School Corp., she recently donated the remainder of the jackets to the Boys Academy.
The rites-of-passage ceremony hailed as a rebirth of the previously idle organization.
They pledged, “I am a mighty man, and as such, I pledge to live a clean and productive life by doing my best, giving my best, and looking my best — it’s no wonder that I get the job done.”
The rites-of-passage pledge is a representation of boys transitioning into young men, says Assistant Principal William Roberts.
Jerry Lynch, Gary Fire Department information systems officer, grew up in the neighboring Dorie Miller Housing Development.
“I transitioned from selling drugs, using drugs, and being almost homeless,” he said. “I had to look in the mirror and say to myself, ‘I’m better than this.’ ”
Lake County Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, placed emphasis on the importance of men volunteering at the boys academy.
“I’m committed,” he said. “I’m willing to take one of these guys and be his father.”
Jonathan Robinson founded The Brotherhood in Dorie Miller Housing Development to help combat urban problems among youth.
“They say it’s one of the worse complexes in Gary,” he explained. “But we have seven students being honored today.”
The Brotherhood is an outreach mentorship program with nearly 20 volunteers providing free haircuts, etiquette training, self-esteem classes and more.
“Evil Flourishes When Good Men Do Nothing” is The Brotherhood motto that stretched across T-shirts during the events.
Notable men rose to the occasion at Watson Boys Academy.
Lynch echoed the words of an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Lake County Clerk Mike Brown agreed, “Gary is the village that saved me, and we have to connect with them.”
Retired educator Byron Hubbard, 77, volunteers three days a week at the academy, and made a special trip to the school to join 27 additional men during the rites-of-passage ceremony.
“I felt like a man today,” said Devin Hail, 12. “It’s like the whole community came to out to support us.”
Marlon Harrell, 13, agreed.
“It’s like I felt strong,” he said. “When the men from our community put the jackets on us I felt different.”
According to Indiana State Trooper Timothy Grayson, a mantle of responsibility was passed from one generation to the next.
“Gary has a diamond in the rough,” Grayson said. “And that diamond is Watson Boys Academy.”