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  • Writer's pictureCameron Cochran

Getting support in Gentlemen’s Agreement

Posted June 10, 2016

From Staff Reports, Wilson Daily Times

Eric Davis, chief operations officer for Wilson County Schools, shakes hands with Isaiah Watson at the 2016 Gentlemen's Agreement Banquet.

Detavius Bazemore has learned a few things about life since becoming part of The Gentlemen’s Agreement, and he learned them on a ropes course.

“The ropes course helped me learn that all things don’t come easy, and I must think about the outcome before deciding to take a path,” Detavius said during The Gentlemen’s Agreement’s annual awards program held May 24 on the campus of Barton College.

Detavius was among the young men in the group offering their reflections on what being part of The Gentlemen’s Agreement means to them and how it’s changing their lives.

Wilson County Schools started The Gentlemen’s Agreement in the fall of 2015 as a means of offering personalized support to young men during their high school career by surrounding them with “positive outlets that affirm and celebrate them as talented, gifted and contributing members of the community.” The young men come from all three of the district’s traditional high schools — Beddingfield, Fike and Hunt.

Mentors from the school system and community meet with their assigned students regularly and help lead them through high school by counseling them on academic, life and social issues. One of the goals of the program is to equip the students with the skills needed to find viable jobs or to create entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves after graduating from high school.

The awards program, which included dinner, marked the end of the first year for The Gentlemen’s Agreement.

Detavius, who attends Beddingfield, recalled how Gary Farmer, Wilson County School board member, challenged them to work together and tackle different parts of the ropes course at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf.

“There were times when we were confused on what to do, and he encouraged us to talk it out until we developed understanding,” Detavius said. “Together we developed a plan and supported one another in order to be successful.”

Highlights of the evening included the awarding of the inaugural Thomas Lucas Award of Integrity, which honors the memory of Thomas Lucas, former chairman of the Wilson County Board of Commissioners and one of the people who helped create The Gentlemen’s Agreement. Sherry Lucas, his widow, presented the award to a young man from each school. Recipients were Jahlyl Rosa of Beddingfield, Terry Perry of Hunt and Brandon Hinnant of Fike.

One student from each participating school received the Most Improved and Character awards. Recipients of the Most Improved award were Detavius, Javion Farmer of Hunt and Justice Barnes of Fike. Recipients of the Character award were Deondre Mitchell of Fike, Isaiah Watson of Hunt and Fred Stancil of Beddingfield.

Receiving certificates for this support of and contributions to The Gentlemen’s Agreement were Gary Farmer; Alice Freeman, retired city of Wilson public relations director and Wilson 20/20 member; Doug Searcy, president of Barton College and Wilson 20/20 member; and Tim Wright, president of Wilson Community College and Wilson 20/20 member. Guest speaker for the evening was Reginald Speight, district director for Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson.

The Gentlemen’s Agreement kicked off with a Parent Night in October followed by the young men visiting the campuses of Barton and Wilson Community College in November to learn more about what these schools have to offer and the college admissions process.

It’s because of the visit to Barton that Jaquam Artis says he wakes up daily “trying to be more successful than I was the day before.” Jaquam told those attending the awards event he was inspired by hearing from Anthony Atkinson during the Barton trip. Atkinson, Barton graduate and Harlem Globetrotters member, helped lead Barton to an NCAA Division II national basketball championship.

“He inspired me to be a better man and a better student,” Jaquam said. “Before I took the trip to Barton, I’d been through Barton College’s campus to get to the store. This time, I got to see the cafeteria, the gyms and the dorms, and it was special.”

In February, the group enjoyed attending a men’s basketball game at Barton, then in March they were treated by community supporters to a performance of “The Lion King” at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Each young man received a new shirt and tie to wear to what was for many of them their first time attending a major theatrical program and first trip to DPAC.

Javion Farmer thanked those who have given him the opportunity to be part of The Gentlemen’s Agreement.

“From the time I began the club, I have had a great experience,” he said. “One part of the play that I really enjoyed was how real the performers made the death of Mufasa look. This was such an eye-opening part of the play. Outside the actual performance, I had the opportunity to meet and mingle with several of the other gentlemen in the program from both Fike and Beddingfield. I really enjoyed getting to meet new people and share this first experience with others.”

Javion is looking forward to more experiences next school year because of his involvement in The Gentlemen’s Agreement.

The program is coordinated by Maurice Barnes, student intervention counselor at Daniels Learning Center, with the help of Aiyanna Williams, assistant principal at Beddingfield; Kim Newkirk, assistant principal at Fike; Melody Parker-Eatmon, career development counselor at Hunt; and Robert Harvey, director of transportation.

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