Students at the Lincoln Academy for Boys yesterday heard from city officials, college administrators and numerous other leaders during a Career Day program, but none may have been as influential as Willie D. Williams.
Mr. Williams, a former student at Lincoln, is the general manager of Jackson's Lounge and Grill in downtown Toledo. Mr. Williams told the story of coming from the same neighborhood and sitting in the same classrooms as the current students and how he was able to find success.
"I can't just relate to them," Mr. Williams said. "I am them. I was in the same classrooms and walked the same halls."
Mr. Williams was one of roughly 40 men from the community who ventured into Lincoln's classrooms and talked to students formally and one-on-one hoping to make a difference.
The academy, operating as an all-boys school for the second year, has kindergarten through sixth grades. It targets boys who may have had difficulties in the past, said Richard Jackson, president of Sigma Pi Phi chapter of Alpha Phi Boule - a professional African-American fraternity - and a former administrator at Toledo Public Schools.
Mr. Jackson said he believes stories like Mr. Williams' resonated with the students at the academy.
He said Alpha Phi Boule will provide mentoring, tutoring, and motivation for students inside and outside of the classroom.
Mr. Jackson said Alpha Phi Boule hopes to establish true relationships with students and not a program where students see them once and no longer have contact with them.
"We want to expose the kids to people in the community who will be able to tell them 'I made it and you can make it, too,' " Mr. Jackson said. "A lot of the mentors we're bringing in grew up in and around the Lincoln area."
Mr. Williams said he grew up near Dorr and Forrest streets. He said his mother did a great job at raising him, but he still needed a male influence in his life.
"We had all white female teachers," said Mr. Williams, who was the unit manager at the Homer Hanham Boys and Girls Club of Toledo before joining Jackson's in 2003. "That's fine, but I didn't see a lot of black males growing up. I didn't have anyone like me I could talk to, to encourage me, to tell me to study harder and push harder. You still needed that male guidance."
Mr. Jackson said the Career Day program yesterday was meant to establish a long-term commitment to the school. In January, the fraternity gave away baseball caps to students, labeled LAPD, an acronym for Lincoln Academy Proud and Determined.
Mentors will also visit the school on a weekly basis in an effort to establish one-on-one relationships with the students.
Derrick Roberts, the principal at Lincoln, said the Alpha Phi Boule and other community leaders will be welcomed role models.
"Many of [the students] have already seen the negative side," Mr. Roberts said. "They will be surrounded by positive people and some of them from their own neighborhood. It lets them know they can be whatever they want to be. All they have to do is make up their minds on who they want to be."
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