Local kids mentored in Man Up! program
Participants go to meet LeBron James, Denzel Washington, Ashanti and Ron Howard
Six Hagerstown boys, who participate in the Man Up! mentoring program, got a chance to meet four celebrities during a Sept. 21 visit to Washington, D.C. Back row from left: Memorial Recreation Center teacher Linda Gordon, Memorial Rec Program Director Marquita Davis, Jiar White, Raekwon Momen, Zahir Scott and Man Up! co-founder Kelly Wright. In front are, from left to right, Naquan Chung (sitting); Loderique Gordon; and Aaron Hudson. (Photo Courtesy of Man Up!)
As impressed and excited as he was to meet National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James and Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, it was a talk about helping others by Roxanne Spillett, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, that led Loderique and Naquan Chung to discuss the possibilities on the ride home.
"I started to raise money for Man Up!," said Loderique of the mentoring program for boys ages 6 to 18 that he participates in at Memorial Recreation Center in Hagerstown.
"I learned that help is a really good thing," he said.
Naquan said the boys want to raise money so they can go on another field trip. During Wednesday's Man Up! meeting, they discussed fundraising possibilities and what they learned from the trip, which included a visit to the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington.
It was the six Hagerstown boys' participation in the mentoring program that led to their invitation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's youth of the year event on Sept. 21 at the National Press Club.
Man Up! co-founder and Fox News journalist, Kelly Wright, was covering the youth of the year event for his "Beyond the Dream" series and thought it would be a great opportunity for the local boys.
"What boy would want to miss a chance to miss LeBron James, you know? Or Denzel Washington for that matter?" Wright said. James is "the epitome of the American Dream," "a young kid who grew up on the rough side of the tracks of Akron, Ohio; product of a single-parent home; and then emerging as the superstar that he's known as today."
"This was a golden opportunity for our boys to see that they could aspire to be great young men," Wright said.
Aaron Hudson, 12, said he had a "good time" talking to James, who told Aaron about his own path from youth to basketball star.
"We talked about, like, um, how, he started off in like a bad neighborhood and then grew up to be something big," Aaron said.
Asked what he would take from the experience, Aaron said, "How to never give up and follow your dream."
Jiar White, 12, said he was inspired to work harder and listen to what adults are saying. He said he will work to improve his grades from "95s to 100s."
The famous speakers talked about the Boys & Girls Clubs' influence and "what we need to do in life, like stay in school and just achieve our dreams and goals," said Zahir Scott, 11.
Zahir's current career aspirations are to be either a dancer or a zoologist. He enjoys "freestyling' or — hood hop dancing, but said he's also "obsessed with animals."
Also going on the trip was Raekwon Momen, 12.