Lowcountry organization shapes futures for young men
April 19, 2017 • 101 views
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137 boys and 70 men scattered throughout the lowcountry are working towards a common goal: to build a strong foundation for the next generation of men. The mentoring program, entitled the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club (often abbreviated to DGC), aims to cultivate responsibility, and young boys are drawn to the program for benefits including a 97% graduation rate. The Summerville chapter is led by Rezsaun Lewis, program director, at Sires Elementary school.
Lewis described his objectives within DGC, explaining, “I’m involved because I care. I can’t sit back and know there’s an issue and not do something to help… Our mentors extend themselves to help these kids and ask for nothing in return. If no one built this program there would be a void that would need to be filled.”
In order to lay the groundwork for the success of its members, DGC makes it a priority to emphasize volunteerism, education, and respect. Groups of boys within the club are assigned mentors, and the mentors serve as personal guides throughout lessons and activities. The boys travel to local events, including Summerville Miracle League games, to lend their helping hands. They visit schools such as Trident Technical College and College of Charleston in order to visualize their futures in higher education, and they experience group lessons on respect such as how to maturely handle a conflict. Even the smaller aspects of being a gentlemen, like how to tie a tie, are learned.
Samuel Bellamy is a mentor for the club, and he says that the bond formed between mentees and mentors is a strong one.
“The most difficult part about being a mentor is creating appropriate boundaries. Once you have spent a considerable amount of time with the mentees, you become really close. You have to remind yourself that you’re there to help guide them and not make decisions for them, no matter how much you care,” Bellamy explained, noting that sometimes mentors can become father figures to a mentee but that legitimate parenting should be left to the families.
The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club is open to boys from third graders to high school seniors, and Lewis recommends joining if one is interested in “being better than you were yesterday.” He enforced that the club does not discriminate against race, family structure, or socioeconomic background. Any boy meeting the age requirement is welcome to become a mentee with the goal of becoming his best self.
One such boy is RJ Lewis, Rezsaun Lewis’s son, who has personally benefitted from the club. RJ expressed that his favorite DGC event is helping at Summerville Miracle League. He enjoys being with his friends in the club, and he explained that they work through issues outside of the club using what they learn, a specific example taking place during a car ride.
RJ recalled that a friend had gotten in trouble at school that day, so when the child in question and the group of friends later converged in the car, they brainstormed ways they could have “done better.”
Though the organization is currently limited to the lowcountry, directors and organizers have big goals. Director Lewis explained their biggest one.
“I want every state in the US and [every] continent on earth to have branches of DGC or something like it. Positive, effective mentorship is a must for success for young men and women of all backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. I work with the goal of reaching each of the kids who will need us, wherever they may be,” Lewis explained, noting that when there is a DGC or similar group in Tokyo, Japan, he will know he has done his job. “DGC Tokyo” is often joked about between mentors in a humorous comment very earnestly reflecting the club’s aspirations.
Another, more immediate, goal for the club is to have a 1:1 mentee to mentor ratio for a more personal and beneficial experience. As previously mentioned, there are several boys per mentor. While the boys have responded positively toward their shared mentors, club officials believe that a 1:1 ratio would bring about an improved experience. The club also hopes to form another branch, Distinguished Ladies Club, for young girls seeking guidance.
To learn more about the club, one may visit connectionsandyou.org or visit the group’s Facebook page, Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club of Summerville.
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