Role Mod­els in­duct Mathis, name 62 schol­ars

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ISHEKA N. HAR­RI­SON ihar­ri­son@sfltimes.com

MI­AMI – Last Fri­day was a big day for Con­gress­woman Fred­er­ica S.Wilson’s 5000 Role Mod­els of Ex­cel­lence Project.

In the morn­ing over 120 young men filled Mi­ami North­west­ern Se­nior High School’s au­di­to­rium don­ning the sig­na­ture red and black ties de­not­ing membership. Later that evening 62 of the Project’s grad­u­at­ing se­niors were named Wilson Schol­ars and signed schol­ar­ships to the col­leges or univer­si­ties of their choice.

Hail­ing from schools across Mi­ami-Dade County, the young men waited in an­tic­i­pa­tion to hear from a man who faced and over­came chal­lenges like the ones they en­counter ev­ery day – The Honor­able Judge Greg Mathis.

Mathis, who had his own tele­vi­sion show and made his­tory as the youngest per­son elected as a District Judge in Michi­gan – was the key­note speaker for the morn­ing and evening events.

“When you come from a com­mu­nity that has a lot of ob­sta­cles, it re­ally just strength­ens you. If your neigh­bor­hood or com­mu­nity or house­hold does not ap­pear con­ducive, fight through that,” Mathis ad­vised. “They’re go­ing to re­ject you in some places. They’re not go­ing to roll out the red car­pet. There’s go­ing to be racism, but you can’t give up.”

He en­cour­aged youth to find their gifts, cul­ti­vate them and come back to serve their com­mu­ni­ties.

“If you work hard in ev­ery sub­ject, you’ll find one that comes easy to you. Well that’s your gift and you must find it and de­velop it. … Then dream big,” Mathis said. “Be the owner, not the ownee (sic). Once you achieve suc­cess, do like the Con­gress­woman. Come and give back. Tell me what you’ve done for your com­mu­nity. Tell me what you have done for your fam­ily. If you want to be Judge Mathis or a Con­gress­woman Wilson, it’s ser­vice. Know, love and serve your peo­ple. That’s my for­mula for suc­cess and ad­vice for you.”

Mathis said get­ting in­volved in gangs and street life doesn't make one coura­geous, per­se­ver­ing to make some­thing of one­self does.

“A lot of folks think they’re tough on the cor­ner. You’re not tough on the cor­ner. That’s not tough. That’s weak. You’re the tough ones. You’ve over­come it. You stood up to that fire,” Mathis said. “I didn’t give up like a punk and run to the cor­ner and try to drink my prob­lems away and smoke my prob­lems away. Young men if you can hus­tle on those streets, it's eas­ier to hus­tle in col­lege."

Be­fore Mathis took the stage, the young men had the chance to hear from var­i­ous lo­cal lead­ers in­clud­ing Paul Wilson, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Di­rec­tor of School Op­er­a­tions at Mi­ami-Dade County Pub­lic Schools, as well as Con­gress­woman Wilson’s son; Dono­van Campbell, Sports An­chor from WSVN 7; Mi­ami North­west­ern Prin­ci­pal Wal­lace Aris­tide; Regi­nald Fox, Prin­ci­pal of Robert Morgan Ed­u­ca­tional Cen­ter; Dr. Joseph Du­bery, a 5000 Role Mod­els and North­west­ern alum who re­ceived his white coat; NBC6 An­chor Jawan Strader; and sev­eral renowned pas­tors from var­i­ous lo­cal churches. Mathis and Strader were both in­ducted as Role Mod­els.

Paul Wilson told the stu­dents they were in a safe space to have a very real con­ver­sa­tion.

“We’re go­ing to have a very com­fort­able con­ver­sa­tion about some un­com­fort­able top­ics. Our city seems to be at war,” Paul Wilson said. “Gun vi­o­lence is run­ning ram­pant through­out ev­ery street and ev­ery av­enue that you turn down, In­side of these walls is not a reflection of the non­sense that’s go­ing on out there.”

He ad­mon­ished them to know their worth, sep­a­rate fan­tasy from re­al­ity and un­der­stand what they are fight­ing against.

“We’re talk­ing to stu­dents who know they are des­tined to be kings and queens as they are stand­ing on the shoul­ders of the kings and queens that came be­fore them. The prob­lem is that’s not the nar­ra­tive be­ing told,” Paul Wilson said. “The path from child­hood to man­hood for mi­nor­ity men can be an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult one. … 40 year-olds can’t solve the prob­lems of mil­len­ni­als. There are cer­tain things you hold near and dear that we don’t nec­es­sar­ily un­der­stand … We want to un­der­stand from you what’s go­ing on. How can we help you help your­self?”

The panel of pas­tors dis­cussed the role spir­i­tu­al­ity is play­ing in so­ci­ety and the role it should play.

“Je­sus did not come to found a re­li­gion … He came to re-es­tab­lish what we lost in Ge­n­e­sis and that is a re­la­tion­ship with God. I’m a pas­tor but I can’t stand church folk, be­cause church folk can be some of the worst folk,” said Pas­tor Steve Caldwell of New Prov­i­dence Mis­sion­ary Bap­tist Church. “How can I pre­scribe some­thing for you if I don’t even know what your ill­ness is? We think we know what’s right for you with­out even talk­ing to you. We have to be ac­cept­ing of peo­ple where they are, but un­der­stand where I meet you is not where I’ll keep you.”

Con­gress­woman Wilson, who is a grad­u­ate of Mi­ami North­west­ern, told the Role Mod­els they could be any­thing they wanted and she was there to make sure they are suc­cess­ful. “I am here for one rea­son; I am here be­cause I love you. I will die for you be­cause I know how hard it is to be you be­cause I was you,” she said. “I don’t want you to ever for­get that Con­gress­woman Wilson works 24 hours a day, seven days a week for chil­dren like you and chil­dren who look like you. … When­ever you try to fly there will al­ways be some­one stand­ing on your wings. You can ei­ther let them hold you down or you can take them with you."

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JEROME MC­NEIL

Con­gress­woman Fred­er­ica S. Wilson with some of her Wilson Schol­ars, who each re­ceived schol­ar­ships and lap­tops to at­tend the col­leges of their choice.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF JEROME MC­NEIL

Paul Wilson (left) and fel­low Role Model help Judge Greg Mathis, cen­ter, into his sig­na­ture red and black tie as he is in­ducted into the 5000 Role Mod­els of Ex­cel­lence Project, Fri­day, May 5.

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