As part of a five-year mentoring program offered by HOLLA! (Helping Our Loved ones Learn & Achieve), juniors and seniors from Anson County Early College spent their school day Friday at HOLLA!’s headquarters in Morven.
“We have a program built on character,” explained HOLLA! CEO and co-founder Leon Gatewood. The 11th- and 12th-grade boys arrived at HOLLA!’s Mary E. Little Community Center at 9 a.m. Friday, and stayed until 2:30 p.m., listening to a variety of successful adults with different occupations, ranging from a pharmacist to a police officer and juvenile courts counselor.
The teens also watched a 20-minute video called “Bring Your A Game,” which encouraged them to stay in school and always do their best.
Tim Bennett of Morven spoke to the young men also, telling them how he grew up in “the street life,” but managed to overcome his past and become a successful adult, even though he has a criminal record. “A lot of what I learned came from the streets,” Bennett said. “I’m street-smart but I’ve got book smarts, too. My main thing is don’t sell drugs and don’t use drugs. You can be a leader or a follower, and if you’re going to follow someone, don’t follow someone who’s negative or into negative things.”
Anson County magistrate Weaver Thomas also spoke to the teens, and told them he had a young person in his office that very morning who’d been arrested for drug possession. The young man told Thomas that he’d “found” the marijuana. “I told him I walk up and down the street all the time and I’ve never found any marijuana just lying there,” Thomas said, adding that when he asked the young man to remove his hat, he found crack rocks under the hat’s brim.
As he looked out at the high schoolers, Thomas said, “When I go to court, it looks just like this — a sea of young faces.”
He encouraged the teens to make wise choices, and never to lose their balance between what is right and having a good time.