“It’s not fair to expect young men to know how to act in society without positive role models to instill morals and values at an early age,” said Area Director Cameron Bertrand.
Passport to Manhood is preparing today’s young males to be tomorrow’s driven gentlemen.
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula’s(BGCVP) Passport to Manhood is an in-depth 14-session training that prepares young males for adult life through 1-on-1 and peer mentoring. As Cameron Bertrand, Area Director and Passport to Manhood Facilitator, says “Becoming a man has nothing to do with age, manhood is about understanding dependability, accountability, and responsibility.”
At Pinedale Manor, fourteen young men have committed themselves to changing their futures for the better. By joining Passport to Manhood, they agree to take control of their own futures.
The passage from boyhood to manhood is challenging. There will be many tough decisions, transitions, and obstacles that make it difficult. Some young men are not able to weather the change to adulthood. As Bertrand says “Passport to Manhood is a program that teaches these young men how to make smart decision in tough situations.”
Passport to Manhood puts emphasis on three pillars that are designed to empower the individual:
Through service projects and mentoring, members develop a positive vision of manhood. For a number of Mr. Bertrand’s mentees, there is a lack of positive role models outside of the Club, which can lead to problems in identity. With committed mentors from Quality of Life Counseling Center and Ferguson Enterprises, Cameron and his group of three other mentors built the necessary relationships to inspire a positive change in seven young males’ lives. The mentors (Dorion Jackson, Shaka Smith, Deueyne Hickman) left lasting impressions on the young men by being involved in these individuals lives.
One of the pillars Cameron has stressed to the young men is, “don’t retaliate; realize the change that needs to happen and make it happen.”
Dyel Eason 19(right), is the Club's first Passport to Manhood graduate. For him, realizing that change was needed was all too real. Before he was wrestling for Washington State across the country, Dyel was an average teen in Newport News, Va. After making a couple poor decisions, Dyel was arrested and incarcerated for a short period of time. One of his first actions following his release was joining the Pinedale Manor Club. This decision changed his life forever when he met Cameron Bertrand and his group of mentors. Passport to Manhood got Dyel on the right track again and helped him receive a scholarship to go across the country to attend Garys Harbor College in Washington state .
“No one in my family has done this before, both college and going across the country. I had nothing when I began. Why can’t others follow in my foot steps and break the cycle? I hope others follow my path and use the doors that are open to them,” said Dyel, who is now back at the Club as an employee and is an example of what Passport to Manhood is capable of motivating young men to do.
"Coming back to the Club to help after my first year of college is crazy, I didn't expect that the Club and mentors would become my second family."
Although Cameron and the mentors can’t change the past, they can prepare for the future. A key element of Passport to Manhood is preparing the young men for the workplace. The mentors worked with the young men on creating initial, middle, and end goals that would help them succeed in their fields of interest.
For DeSean Williams 18, one of the young men, having strong role models has not always been an option. Before becoming a part of the Pinedale Manor Club, DeSean had struggled with low self-esteem that stemmed from being a victim of bullying. As soon as he joined the Club, he built a strong relationship with Cameron who wanted to empower him. “Cameron became my dad,” said DeSean.
Through Passport to Manhood, DeSean met another mentor, Dorion Jackson, who he now views as an “uncle”. The mentors worked on DeSean’s inner confidence while also preparing him academically.
Dorion and Cameron even attended Desean's graduation as pictured left.
DeSean made a major mental turn-around as a result of the invested mentors and graduated from high school this past month. He will be attending Norfolk State University this coming year where he hopes to study public administration. When DeSean heard the news that he would be a Spartan in the fall, he texted Dorion about his excitement and thanks.
Because of the impact BGCVP and his mentors have had on DeSean, his goal in life is to return to the organization as an employee after receiving his college degree and eventually become CEO.
Another example of Passport to Manhood building a driven individual ready for the work place is with Chaquan and his desire to be a graphic design artist.
Chaquan Ponds 17, is one of the young men on the journey toward manhood. He lives with his mother and three siblings, and is the man of the house. “When I decided to walk over to the Club, it was because I was bored of sitting at home doing nothing.” When he first came into the Club, Chaquan isolated himself, even calling himself “anti-social.” Although he likes art, “he refused to show anyone his works for the first couple weeks, I would have to look over his shoulder” said Bertrand.
Through Passport to Manhood, he has developed healthy relationships with other kids his age and the mentors. “Passport to Manhood taught me how to stop lashing out with my emotions; I understood that I had friends that I could talk to, and who would help me before I had to ask” said Chaquan.
“As a young man and an artist, my mentors have forced me to try new things in the fields that interest me. Even though I am color blind, Cameron knows that I am passionate about art and design, so he challenges me to produce different styles of work, trying new patterns and using more colors,” Said Chaquan.
Most recently, the Passport to Manhood mentors urged Chaquan to design the Club’s basketball uniforms which he is very proud of. In the last year, Chaquan has been tasked with creating designs for Mayor Price's anti-bullying campaign and for BGCVP’s Ignite the Youth event. His mentors have worked with him to develop a network of other artists and helped him put together a portfolio of his works.
Here are a collections of some of his works including an unfinished design for this year's anti bullying campaign by mayor McKinley.
As for Cameron’s perspective on Passport to Manhood, he says “we are breaking the cycle. Retaliation is the easy way out; we are causing change which is hard to do at a young age. I knew going in that if I wanted to cause a change in these kids, I was going to need dependable men that would not leave them. At first I was frustrated that I was the closest thing to a father these kids had, but then I embraced the role of having a direct impact on young males’ lives and used it for good.”
Although the process has not been easy, and understanding the direct impact he has on these children is heavy, with the help of his fellow mentors, they have begun to take back the community.
Passport to Manhood is determined on developing teens into active and positive individuals ready to make a difference in the community. A large thank you goes out Cameron Bertrand, Dorion Jackson, Shaka Smith, and Deueyne Hickman for dedicating their time to changing the future of young individuals.
Wavy 10 News recently featured this program in an article. Click Here to read the Wavy 10 article. Prefer video? Here is their feature from the "Taking Back the Community" series.
Boys & Girls Clubs