On the morning of Thursday, April 4, the local CHANGE program held its monthly meeting at Woodlawn Middle School. CHANGE is a program organized by local community leaders, including brothers Maurice and Curtis Bass, Mr. Danny Walker, and Pastor Shannon Long of Beyond Measure Ministries, in conjunction with Deputy J.L. Paul, the School Resource Officer at Woodlawn Middle.
The program is designed to provide mentorship, leadership, encouragement, guidance, and support for young, often fatherless males on their journey to being successful. CHANGE stands for Choose Having A New Growth Experience.
The CHANGE agents work alongside school counselors, social workers, and school resource officers. The CHANGE Agents are currently working with several schools in the Alamance and Orange County School Systems at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
On Friday, April 5, the CHANGE program made its way to South Mebane Elementary School, where they helped teach a group of students how to tie ties.
“We choose positivity. We choose keeping the negative things out of our minds, out of our lives. Doing better,” Bass said to the students at Woodlawn Middle. “Put ourselves around positive energy.”
Bass had the students repeat a message intended to instill confidence and hope in their hearts.
“I am loved. I am powerful. I am somebody,” Bass said, imploring the students to repeat him.
“You are loved. That’s right. You are powerful. Your are somebody. You take that, and you take that with you - walking with you every minute of the day. You are loved. You are powerful. You are somebody.”
CHANGE honored its most recent “Leader of the Month” - Woodlawn Middle track standout Mileck Toomer - with a Certificate of Excellence.
“We saw potential in this young man. Mr. Toomer was dedicated as our Leader of the Month. That’s a huge accomplishment,” Bass said. “I think Mr. Toomer has a lot of influence in this school. In the classroom, on the athletic fields - he has a lot of influence. A leader with influence can inspire them to do better.”
“He did better this month,” Bass added of Toomer. “I wanted to see with my own eyes - I was up there with my son and my wife watching him run. And he came in first place. That’s an accomplishment. And guess what he did? When he finished, he came up in the stands and sat with his family. Loved on his mother. They were calling his name. That’s a leader. He did great. He wasn’t cursing. He wasn’t out of place. He did good. I’m proud of him.”
Bass spoke with the students about the qualities of leadership, and in following the same disciplinary guidelines at school with teachers that parents expect at home.
“If my parents don’t care what we do at home, we definitely don’t think we have to follow rules at school,” one student said.
“Why is it important to have leaders? Who has structure at home? Mostly everybody has structure,” Bass told the group. “Why would you come to school, and you think there shouldn’t be any structure? Why do you think you can come to school and say and do anything you want to do? If you have structure at home, why don’t we follow the same rules at school, when the teacher is trying to pour knowledge into your life.”
“Why do we think we can do anything we want to do, talk back, don’t do work, go in the hallway, skip class, when we’re in school. But when we’re at home, with our parents, we’re structured, and we have rules. Who can tell me why is that? If you behave at home, why don’t you behave at school?”
“The teachers are not your parents. (Woodlawn principal) Mr. (Brian) Williams is not your daddy. Mr. Paul is not at home with you. So we don’t have to listen to them,” Bass continued.
Three new leaders of the month were established for April.
“You guys’ jobs is to hold them accountable for their leadership skills,” Bass said. “When you see them out of place, you nudge them on the shoulder and say, ‘That’s not leadership qualities.’ As leaders, when you see them out of place, you’re going to do the same thing. ‘That’s not what we do when we choose to have a new growth experience.”
Pastor Shannon Long spoke with the young men about dreams - having them and working to achieve them.
“If you’re a dreamer, stand up,” Long said.
Over half the group stood up.
“If you have nightmares, stand up. Those are forms of dreams.”
Just a couple people stood up.
“Why did I do a comparison from dreams to nightmares. What are nightmares? Nightmares are dreams. What’s the difference between a dream and a nightmare? It’s simply positivity and negativity,” Long said. “The reason why we have nightmares because we allow things into our mindset that are not so positive. The second reason is because life is real. You see things that are not so good, and not so positive. They have the potential to change your mindset.”
“The reason why we’re part of this CHANGE program is because we want to take the nightmares that you’ve been having, and some the realities of your life and your situation - coming from a one-parent, single-parent home, not having some of the things that our peers have. Not having the privileges of others that they have. Those things create nightmares. Why don’t I have these things? Why can’t we live like this? Why can’t I walk around with Jordans on? Why can’t I have the clothes I want?”
“Choose Having A New Growth experience is about dreaming to become you,” Long continued. “Dream to become you. Let’s just be real - you’re not going to be Michael Jordan. You’re not going to be LeBron James. You’re not going to be Kobe Bryant.”
“When you look at these posters, and you see all these NBA and NFL superstars, a lot of times, because we create such a global image of that person, they create nightmares? You know why? We see the fame. We see the fortune. We see the money. We see all this glitter and gold.”
“Just because you’re making a lot of money doesn’t mean that life is easy,” Pastor Long informed the children. “Life is real. And a lot of those guys come from different background that weren’t so well. They had dreams. They also had some nightmares. They had nightmares because they came out of areas and had experiences that weren’t so good. You have an opportunity to become who you were created to be. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
“Every last one of you woke up this morning. And every time you wake up, you get another opportunity, another shot, another chance, to make it right. Another semester to pick those grades up. Another month to be a leader. Another opportunity to make it right at your home, with the teacher, with the principal, with the officer of the school. You get another opportunity to make it right.”
Long encouraged the children to find positive outlets for their energies.
“Dream to become better,” he said. “And if any of you all are having nightmares, you’re going to put positive influences back into your life. How do you do that? You watch positive things. You have positive friends. You get rid of those negative people. You listen to positive music. Everywhere we go, we’re trying to pour positivity into your youth, to change the mindset of this culture. Because we want you to choose to live, and not to die. Dream. Continue to dream. That’s living. Put those positive influences in your life.”