Over 500 Men and Boys ages 8 to 80 attended their 6th Annual 900 Men Strong Scholarship and Community Service Awards breakfast on Saturday on April 1, 2017 at the Virginia Beach Founders Inn.
The annual event is presented by W.H. Gray Men’s Ministry of Second Calvary Baptist Church under the leadership of Dr. Rev. Geoffrey V. Guns, Senior Pastor of Second Calvary.
Promoting the theme” Making a Difference through Education,” this breakfast brings together Men and Boys throughout Hampton Roads with the goal to reduce the dropout rate for African-American Boys in High School. Some communities in Hampton Roads have up to 20 percent of African-American Boys dropping out of High School, according to U.S. Census reports.
The 900 Men Strong Breakfast awarded $1,000 scholarships to six high school seniors aspiring to attend college in addition to recognizing the achievements of Men who have supported youth and have given back to the community. Scholarship recipients were Nikoli Green from Nansemond River High School, Suffolk; Tyler Morris –Cape Henry, Virginia Beach; Isaiah Riddick Debnam-Grassfield High School, Chesapeake; Terrel Rodgers –Heritage High, Newport News; Jordan Widemen-Hampton High, Hampton; and Tasuan Wods – Booker T. Washington High School, Norfolk. A special thanks is extended to Educational Diamond Sponsor Optima Health and CLP Financial Group for donating an additional $1,000 scholarship.
Dr. David Anderson, founder of the Black Empowerment Radio Network, served as the keynote speaker and provided some thought-provoking remarks reminding young men that while many African-American Men throughout the country have been victims of several questionable deaths between Law Enforcement and African-American Men, these young Men need to prepare themselves to pursue an education and alleviate themselves from negative stereotypes often associated with young boys wearing their pants far below the midsection of their body.
This year’s breakfast was highlighted by the community service awards selection process designed to provide the community an opportunity to select one of the three honorees being awarded the W.H. Gray Community Service Award. The 900 Men Strong committee selected Dr. Tony McNair, the 2017 Virginia Teacher of the Year, as a recipient and Leonard Parson Founder and President/CEO of CLP Financial Group as this year honorees.
The third recipient was selected through an exciting online voting process among four nominees who included Michael Goodman Elder, Community Servant and employee of Canon I.T.S.; Davy Smith III, Founder and Member of Smith Consulting and Networking LLC; Elisha “Cadillac Harris” ,Educator and Football Coach; and Michael Wilkins, Community Advocate and Youth Supporter. The Community selected Mr. Cadillac Harris to round out the trio of the W.H. Gray Community Service Award Honorees.
This breakfast is designed to help bridge a stronger relationship between law enforcement and youth by having young men sit at the tables of officers and dialogue with law enforcement to build relationships, according to Tyrone Walker, Chairperson of this year’s 900 Men Strong Scholarship and Community Service Awards Breakfast. Law Enforcement from various departments throughout Hampton Roads attended to engage in personable conversations with these young men to bridge any misperceptions about Black youth and Law Enforcement that can lead to avoidable incidents in the community.
Police Departments represented were from Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Sheriff Departments from Chesapeake and Norfolk were also in attendance.
The 900 Men Scholarship and Community Service Awards Breakfast continues to serve as one of the largest breakfast attracting Men only to stand up and Make a Difference Through Education by providing scholarships to high school Boys, honoring Men in the community who have given back, and providing an electrifying speech during the breakfast for Men to serve as role models to the over 200 youth in attendance.
Submitted by J.R. Locke