A program held on Friday for male freshmen and sophomores at Anson County Early College encouraged the young men to “Bring Your A Game,” and offered advice on how to succeed in the “real world,” after high school.
HOLLA! hosted the program, which was held at the Mary E. Little Community Center in Morven from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Local leaders, politicians and dignitaries from South Piedmont Community College and Centralina Workforce Development attended, according to HOLLA! CEO Leon Gatewood. That included N.C. Senate candidate and Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin, Congress 8th District write-in candidate Antonio Blue and Gatewood’s own former English teacher, Dr. Altheria Patton.
The students got a tour of the HOLLA! center and its fitness center across the street, and were provided breakfast and lunch during the program.
Leon Gatewood’s brother, Joseph Gatewood, a N.C. Central University alumni and owner of Gatewood Financial in Charlotte, was one of the speakers during the event. “It’s important for young men to become productive members of society,” he told the high schoolers. “I’ve seen so many young people with so much potential end up in Brown Creek [Correctional Center] or Lanesboro [Prison].”
Gatewood has been speaking to young people for about 30 years, he said, and during that time, “A lot of them have died young because of something foolish. A lot of them ended up in jail because of something foolish. But fortunately, a lot of them also ended up married with children and a job, productive members of society.”
He said that the successful ones had one common denominator — an education — while those who ended up dead or in prison were more often than not, high school dropouts. “I grew up in a good household,” he explained. “We didn’t have a lot of money. In fact, we had no money. A lot of people have hand-me-downs; we didn’t. We wore clothes until they disappeared.”
Gatewood said his father was born just 50 years after slavery was abolished, and therefore, placed a high priority on all 14 of his children earning a quality education. Of the 14 Gatewood kids, 14 got a high school education, and eight went on to four-year colleges or universities.
“There ain’t nothing wrong with work,” Gatewood told the young men. “Whenever you need something done, I’ve always said, ‘work works.’ I get these young men telling me sometimes, ‘Oh, I ain’t gonna do that kind of work.’ How are you gonna be too proud to work and not too proud to beg?”
He added that it’s important for young people to learn bout money, politics, health and history. “If you don’t know where you came from, how will you know where you’re going?” he asked.