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Be the Vessel offers teen mentoring

Patrick Peagler wants to help young men of color in the local community discover there’s a broader and brighter future out there than they might have ever imagined. The Greenville native has created a new program entitled “Be the Vessel” (BVS) to help teenage males from disadvantaged neighborhoods develop the skills and discover the resources to create that better future.

“There has been a systemic notion that the only way to be successful as a young black male is to either become a rapper or an athlete,” Peagler, a 2007 graduate of Greenville High School, said.

“This notion gives false hope, false reality, and causes larger disadvantages for our youth as they transition into adulthood. We must invest in our youth in all capacities. whether it is in education, recreation, and/or health.”

According to Peagler, BTV’s program director, the program is geared towards mentoring teens ages 14-18, “a pivotal time for finding your identity as a young male.”

Peagler cites statistics that show black males in the U.S. are incarcerated at a higher rate than their white male counterparts, with a considerable disparity in educational achievement also noted.

“There is a lack of black males in positions of authority and leadership both locally and nationally. During the absence of positive male figures, gang culture is able to thrive because it fills that void and gives them a sense of belonging,” Peagler said.

“There’s a disconnect between the younger generation and the older generation. We need to bridge the communication gap between  teens and adult males, so that there’s a mutual understanding. We have a few community leaders that have great initiatives and support the youth, but in light of the issues we face as a country, we need all hands on deck right now. It is larger than any individual person or group.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us, ‘Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’”

The young men involved in BTV meet twice weekly with Peagler, who says their time together allows him to focus on teaching skills and trades, branding, accountability and utilization of available resources to the attendees.

“We have also had guest appearances from both local and outside personnel such as law enforcement, a licensed banker, university administrators, Greek fraternities, healthcare professionals, coaches, business owners, and others,” Peagler explained.

His goal to bring a sense of community and strong support to the young men involved in BTV seems to be off to a good start.

NaBrandon, one of the attendees, said, “I love it, I really love BTV. I talk to the guys everyday. It’s like a family.”

Javoris says he has learned a lot about himself through BTV.

“I had some many insecurities prior to coming to the program. Being around everyone has given me more confidence,” Javoris said.

Overcoming his fear of public speaking has been an obstacle attendee Jermaine has taken on through BLV.

“Talking has been the most challenging part of the whole program for me, but it’s helping me build my confidence,” he said.

Jacquese agrees, saying, “I’ve learned that I am a leader…we are all destined to be leaders.”

Practical life skills that will serve the young men throughout their lives are part of the program.

“I’ve learned a lot about banks, money management and the different ways to invest,” said Jaquavius.

JaVonte says he has learned to both be himself and to strive to become a better young man through BTV.

Peagler hopes to continue to expand the program and reach more at-risk youth in the county.

“Be The Vessel would love to establish a relationship with the local juvenile center and the Butler County Board of Education to provide these resources on a summer or after-school basis,” the program director said.

“A few local and surrounding businesses have already agreed to establish a pipeline to jobs for these teenagers coming through the BTV program.  We’ve already had a discussion  with Dr. Tommie ‘Tonea’ Stewart, former dean of Alabama State University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, about partnering with the State Board of Education.”

Peagler is looking for more community members willing to support BTV’s mission to make a better future for some of its at-risk youth.

“There’s a disconnect between the younger generation and the older generation. We need to bridge the communication gap between  teens and adult males, so that there’s a mutual understanding,” Peagler said.

Oscar, another one of the BTV attendees, is excited over the possibilities this program brings to the local community.

“I love the fellowship and hard work everyone has displayed so far. There are some great things happening in Greenville,” the teen said.

Peagler believes that now, more than ever, mentoring programs like BTV are needed in the Camellia City.

“We have a few community leaders that have great initiatives and support the youth. However, in light of the issues we face as a country, we need all hands on deck right now. It is larger than any individual person or group.  Proverbs 27:17 tells us, ‘Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,’” Peagler said.

“If there are any parents, businesses, or organizations that would be interested in giving generous donations or supporting the program in any way, please contact us on the BTV Facebook page Be The Vessel.”