Mentoring program seeks to raise peer accountability
By Ruth Young Tyler
Entrenched into American culture, music and media is the falsehood that young Black men are vile, dangerous and slothful. Banish the lies. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a concerted effort to change the trajectory and the narrative of how young Black men are perceived, the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences (NAHS) in Baltimore County established Never Fight Again, a mentor group that was created by and for the young men at the middle school.
“I am so proud of them [students] for wanting more and doing more, so they could be more,” said Dr. Katina F. Webster, principal of Northwest Academy of Health Sciences. “These young men are not perfect, but they are perfectly capable of changing the world,” said Webster.
According to Dr. Webster, the young men decided to work toward being part of the solution instead of the problem in their school community. Twenty young men who attend the school responded to the need to create the mentor group which symbolizes brotherhood and a strong sense of purpose. As part of the mission the young men pledged to hold their peers accountable for making quality decisions in their academic and social lives.
Nearly 100 parents, teachers, administrators, local officials and students attended the January 23rd event including Kyria L. Joseph, principal of Milford Mill Academy, Lauren Tillman, principal of Scotts Branch Elementary School and Aubrey Brown, principal of Randallstown High School. Brown delivered the keynote address.
“You can direct the narrative of your lives,” said Brown. “Never underestimate your own power,” he said. He expressed how proud he was of the students for taking the first steps to address the social conflicts that have plagued their educational and social experiences.
The founding members of Never Fight Again are Jailen Bailey, Anthony Battle, Dre’Shaun Brooks, Konye Blanding, Da’Juan Brooks, Omar Brown, Cameron Crosell, Brandon Crockett, Ja’Rod Davis, Torrence Ferguson, Quamarr Henderson-Spencer, Donte Johnson, Neondre Johnson, Mykhai Logan, Tayshawn Long, Tayvon Peters, Edward Taliaferro, D’Mareon Tillery, Brandon Walker and Karl Wallace.
Tayshawn Long, 13, a football and track and field athlete also participated in the induction ceremony. Long’s parents and older brother were on hand to support the event. “The younger generation is what influences change in our culture,” said David Long, Tayshawn’s older brother. “It’s important for them to understand the power they have and the change they will ultimately be responsible to bring,” he said.
With a theme of “Think about it before you swing about it,” the founding members recited a pledge of commitment:
“We as Never Fight Again (founding members) promise to resolve our problems by expressing ourselves in a positive manner. We are taking a stand to make things right again. I pledge to my brotherhood that I will use other ways than fighting to resolve conflict with others and release my stress. We believe in ourselves. We are the next generation of leaders.”
“If we’re really going to fight for anything let’s fight for the betterment of our children,” said Kyria Joseph, principal of Milford Mill Academy. Joseph, a doctoral student, encouraged the students to “fight” intellectually rather than physically.
Other guests in attendance included Sam Mustipher, executive director for Baltimore County Public Schools zone one, Dr. Raymond E. Banks, Sr., pastor of Open Door Church Ministries, Tony Baysmore, special assistant to Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Kenneth Patterson, a teacher at Scotts Branch Elementary School. Assistant Principal Lawrence Du Val, and Assistant Principal Katrina Kirton-Sherrod of Northwest Academy of Health Sciences were also in attendance along with Pamela Bass, a department chair at the school.