Chris Ramsey has faith in inner-city kids; they just need some guidance to succeed.
“I am a firm believer that all kids are not bad,” said Ramsey, a manager at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “I understand that’s what sells and gets ratings, but some kids are just looking for the right direction. We’re looking for those kids who want to make a positive change.”
Ramsey and about 15 other professional men dressed in collared shirts and ties met Wednesday at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to plan the second annual Boys Leadership Summit.
The group included educators, fraternity members, businessmen, social workers ministers and Juvenile Court officers and the goal is to provide role models and leadership for inner-city youth.
“This is about black men taking leadership of their community,” said Cornerstone Bank Vice President Travis Lytle, who attended the meeting.
The summit is scheduled for Saturday at UTC and includes workshops for youth about health, life skills, the importance of education, careers and relationships. Workshops for parents include the impact of fatherlessness, learning difficulties and resources and fitness.
“We want to make this a top-shelf event,” said Ramsey.
The men held the first summit in October 2010 after syndicated broadcaster Michael Baisden visited Chattanooga during his 72-city One Million Mentors Campaign and Save Our Kids tour.
Ramsey was in the audience when Baisden ended his speech by asking what people planned to do to help local youth when he left the city. Ramsey said he stood in the parking lot afterward talking to other men about what they could do to help. That was the start of the Boys Leadership Summit, he said.
Brainerd High School Principal Charles Joynes is among 150 men expected to attend Saturday’s event and volunteer to mentor the youth.
“I want to make a difference,” Joynes said. “So many young males lack male role models.”
Representatives from the YMCA, On Point and Goodwill Mentoring will be among the several organizations available to sign up youth who want mentors.
“We need to keep this going. I don’t want it to stop,” said Omega Psi Phi fraternity member Temus Terry. “We want these kids to understand that they have some men who support them.”
About 300 youth and their parents are expected to participate.
Actor Cylk Cozart, who played opposite Bruce Willis as Detective Jimmy Mulvey in the movie “16 Blocks” and performed in 2008’s “Eagle Eye,” will be the keynote speaker.
Cozart, who grew up in Knoxville, said he plans to use entertainment as a tool to get youths’ attention, but he’d like to focus his talk on any questions or specific concerns they have.
“I want to leave it open,” he said. “I’d like for them to ask me questions and hear the concerns that they have. That’s what’s important to me because I really didn’t get that opportunity growing up. The only way to know what’s important to them is to listen.”
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...