Every senior in Kappa League of Chattanooga's mentoring program is going to college except one who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. The cumulative grade-point average of all 57 student participants is 3.27, and the group has logged more than 500 hours of community service.
"We're just trying to get the word out that we're doing something good," said Tommie Pruitt, a Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member.
Pruitt was among more than 40 Kappas and their friends and families who met at the Olivet Baptist Church Kingdom Center Thursday for a national signing day celebration. The event recognized all 20 seniors going to college and the colleges they plan to attend.
And many of them, like Victor Blackwell, received academic scholarships. Some, like Jerrian Besley, who plans to attend Tennessee Wesleyan College, earned academic and athletic scholarships.
Levar R. Brown, who oversees the Kappa league in Chattanooga and in the region, explained the occasion.
"We're here to celebrate academics," he said. "These young men are going to college."
Brown and other mentors contact students almost daily, he said.
Several of the youths are from single-parent homes, so the older Kappas try to be male role models, Brown said.
The Rev. Anthony Pollard, youth minister at Olivet Baptist Church, gave the main address.
He read Hebrews 12:2 and then spoke about the torture Jesus Christ endured while being nailed to the cross. He said Christ endured the pain because he saw that "something great was on the other side." Then he encouraged youth to strive to be who God called them to be, despite struggles they may encounter on their journeys.
"God has great things in store for you," he said.
Then Brown called the young people in alphabetical order to a table on a stage where they sat and held cards stating their colleges of choice.
Blackwell walked with his grandmother, who threw her hands in the air when she got close to the stage.
"This is one of the hardest-working grandmothers," said Brown while he waited for them to sit at the table.
Seventy-year-old Shirley A. Norman adopted Blackwell and his older brother after their mother died. Blackwell was age 4 at her death.
Blackwell held up a sign for Middle Tennessee State University while Norman sniffled and clutched her purse.
Later that night, organizers announced that Blackwell had a 4.0 grade-point average, the highest GPA in the group, and gave him $100.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman @timesfreepress or call 423-757-6431.