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South Alabama Young Men’s Association plans eventful summer

The South Alabama Young Men’s Association has an eventful summer planned to help educate and mentor young men in Covington County.

During the pandemic, things basically shut down for the group, but co-founder Kim Staley said they are ready to ramp things back up again.

“Since things are slowing down, people are starting to get vaccinated and cases are going down we are just trying to get a little more active,” Staley said. “We are trying to reach out to our young folks and give them some guidance as they navigate high school.”

The group’s main focus is making sure they start thinking about careers at an early age.

“These kids need to start thinking about what they want to do to be prepared as they exit high school,” Staley said. “They need to have an idea of where they want to go and what career path to go down.”

Before the pandemic, Staley said there were 10 to 12 kids participating in the group. With these events, Staley hopes the group can get momentum going to get more kids.

“My main focus is to create clusters of career paths,” Staley said. “I want to get several people in the community together like people in skilled fields because not everybody is going to go to college. What we want to do is create clusters like public safety, craftsman or the medical field. We are eventually trying to meet with the Chamber of Commerce and hold a business meeting to present the program to them. That will hopefully lead to some shadowing programs and then eventually internships for these kids so we can get them ready for the workforce.”

One of the events planned for the summer is a field trip to the Legacy Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration is a museum in Montgomery, Alabama, that displays the history of slavery and racism in America. This includes the enslavement of African-Americans, racial lynchings, segregation, and racial bias

“We want to be able to expose these kids to a variety of different things educationally,” Staley said. “This will be a good start. Sometimes it helps to know where you come from. Then, you will have a clear path of where you want to go.”

Every month, the group focuses on a different topic to teach the kids every month encompassing everything from personal responsibility to finance.

“We are trying to create good citizens,” Staley said. “During the summer, we are trying to have these events so we can talk to them about setting goals for school and their lives. That is a biggie in my book for these kids to have a three-year plan and a five-year plan. We want them to think about what they really want to do. I start it by asking them, ‘What do you like to do?’ then I’ll tell them to find a way to making a living out of it. The more we can expose them to stuff and thinking about the future, the more we can get them in line.”

Staley said the children in Covington County are very intelligent, which is why they need to focus on the importance of school.

“They are all very exposed because of the technology that they are growing up with,” Staley said. “They are very aware and very smart. So, we just have to get them focused on the importance of school and also they have to think about how they want to make a living. We have a lot of children coming out of high school unprepared.”

The parents also have a part to play in the program, Staley said.

“We want parents to get involved,” Staley said. “You are going to have to push them sometimes. Some days they may say they don’t want to go to the meeting, well get behind them and encourage it.”

The first event is a free community barbecue scheduled for May 22 from 10 a.m., until 2 p.m., on South Cotton Street.

The second event is a car show on June 19, from 10 a.m., until 2 p.m. (Location to be announced later.) and the third event is a field trip to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, scheduled for July 17.