Boys to Men Mentoring Program Uses Community Strength
What started as a divinely inspired vision is now a reality for Caryl Fullwood, a 30+ year veteran educator and licensed minister. Fullwood, Assistant Principal of West Brunswick High School in Shallotte, is the heartbeat and brains behind the mentoring program for boys, “From Boys to Men,” which connects high school students with male professional community members. Fullwood has reached out to sixteen men to help guide the boys through mentoring.
“Unfortunately,” Fullwood says, “there are no recreational centers or resources here in Brunswick County…nothing to keep the young men entertained and stimulated. And Brunswick County is a huge county.”
Fullwood, who has delved deeply into research on racial disparities, and the difficulties black males have with no strong male figure as a role model says, “It makes a difference to have a positive male influence in the boys lives”.
Having worked in public schools in New York and North Carolina for many years, Fullwood says, “I do what I do for kids based on my experience as a kid. The focus of some schools is not on the whole child”.
Several goals of the “From Boys to Men” program have already been implemented. Fullwood has personally recruited positive male role model volunteers to mentor young black and Hispanic men. Her vision started at the high school level, but the educator’s eventual hopes are for a trickle down effect to the feeder schools – envisioning the program’s extension through West Brunswick High School and branching to nineteen other county schools. As well as fundraising for the mentoring program’s summer months, an intern program is in the implementation stages, where the young men work at the mentor’s place of business for four hours a day.
Mentors come from all walks of life, such as James Fullwood, Caryl’s husband and pastor of Little Wheel of Hope in Columbus County. Other professionals include auto mechanics, chefs, teachers, coaches, engineers, behavior specialists, and custodians. Dr. Jerry Oats, Executive Director of Human Resources for Brunswick County Schools, is another mentor for the program.
Fullwood has spoken to each of the mentors and shared her reason for their selection. Not one of the men hesitated – all were on board with the program’s vision.
The boys were selected through teacher recommendations, those who could benefit from a mentor program. Some reasons for inclusion were: no strong male figure in the boys’ life, young men of tremendous potential, and individuals going through personal struggles.
Fullwood spoke with each of the boys, as well as the mentors, prior to the first meet and greet luncheon on March 8. The first session followed on March 23.
Twice monthly, in a quiet area of the West Brunswick High School library, boys and men gather on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays. Caryl coordinates speakers for the program on a plethora of topics such as “What does it Mean to Be a Gentlemen”, health and wellness, doing your best in school, building confidence, drugs and alcohol, and preparing for careers and goal-setting.
Boys matched with their mentor are encouraged to ask advice or feedback on personal or school struggles.
The young men are feeling positive benefits from the program. Kaliym Harrison felt like he could receive a lot of help. Alize Brooks thanked all the mentors for helping him. “My parents didn’t know what to do with me. They dropped me off at my grandmother’s house and never looked back,” Brooks shares.
Even the mentors are sharing positive affirmations with Fullwood. Mentor Jeff Hibbert mentioned the program meant a lot to him and saw Fullwood as the “Harriet Tubman of Brunswick County…rescuing our kids.”
Fullwood admits her ‘plan of action’ is merely a seed. Just as a plant requires nourishment to grow and flourish, Fullwood boldly admits, “I have a passion, and I’m pregnant with this passion. I want it to be something big.”
Fullwood is currently writing a book on how to raise children to be successful. Her son, James Jr., is a podiatrist, and daughter, Destiny Fullwood-Singh, is a criminal defense attorney. She’s in the planning stages of a “Girls Without Mom’s” program.
The handout pamphlets for the “From Boys to Men” mentoring program highlight her favorite inspirational quote by Frederick Douglass, an African-American orator, writer and statesmen:
“It’s better to build strong children, than to repair a broken man.”
Fullwood and her mentors are a testament to that quote – saving one child at a time – right here in Brunswick County.