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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Members of Alpha Phi Alpha step at the 10th annual Boys Leadership Summit on April 30, 2022 at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Community leaders urged Chattanooga-area boys Saturday to seek out their purpose in life as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hosted the 10th annual Boys Leadership Summit.

The summit welcomes boys ranging from middle school to college age, and it seeks to provide them with a mixture of wisdom, mentorship and resources to help them set goals and avoid getting into trouble.

The city's new police chief, Celeste Murphy, made the opening remarks for the event, saying how pleased she was to see such a diverse collection of more than 200 area boys in attendance.

"This is what I enjoy, I love stuff like this," Murphy said. "I raised four sons. This right here means a whole lot for me. Look to me as your other momma."

Chattanooga native Adrian Darrell Davis, an actor, speaker, writer, producer and filmmaker who currently lives in California, spoke to the attendees what it takes to be a leader.

"I want you to start thinking about not what's going into your pocket," Davis said. "But [think about] what's going towards your purpose."

(READ MORE: Soddy-Daisy Community Library raising funds to expand into larger space)

Davis said many of young people today are focused on making money and have lost sight of what is important, such as fulfilling their life's purpose and loving the work they do.

"What would you be doing if money was not an object?" Davis asked. "What job would you select? That thing that kicks up in you, that fire that wakes up in you, that's what you love."

When Davis asked audience members what they would do, one young man said he would draw. Davis said when he started his own career, he was told that drawing would not make any money. Society, he said, needs to encourage creativity more.

"We need to feed that desire," Davis said. "Feed that passion, people are famous for being nothing."

Davis encouraged the boys to follow their creative sides with as much determination as they would pursue a traditional job.

(READ MORE: Two Chattanooga coalitions vying for $25 million grants to help address poverty)

The boys were then separated into different age groups and invited to participate in sessions held in classrooms as their parents were taken to the campus auditorium to hear from Chattanooga Pastor Daryl Arnold.

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10th Boys Leadership Summit

Arnold, who currently preaches at a church in Knoxville, stressed the importance of parents letting go and trusting that their guidance will lead their children to a better life.

"We are here not just for another conference, not just to be in the paper," Arnold said, adding that those parents who attended the conference have shown a deeper interest in their children's future by learning and seeking to break the generational curses that plagued their own childhoods.

"Do you want your child to fight that type of war?" Arnold asked about the pressures some parents carried throughout their younger lives.

On how parents can work together to raise their boys, Arnold said parents should embrace their differences by coming to an agreement about their roles, as well as making compromises.

"We are wired differently, but we're wired right," Arnold said. "I'll allow you to be a [mother] if you allow me to be a [father]."

He added that communication is important to make points clear between parents.

Parental involvement, guidance and nurturing are crucial in keeping young boys away from violence, along with encouraging affection between boys and their families, he said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga's affordability crisis: Report finds 75% of area children live in struggling households)

The classes held for the boys included tips about friendship, trust and motivation. Myles Houston, a 17-year-old who attended the event for the first time Saturday, said he was enjoying the event.

"[I'm] trying to get different tips and different points of view," Houston said. "Really about what not to do and what to do. I really like [it]."

Houston said the classes emphasized how to know who to trust and to keep a small group of friends in order to stay out of trouble. He added that he would encourage some of his peers to come to the next event.

Troy Rogers, the public safety coordinator for the city of Chattanooga, spoke to a group of 10- to 12-year-olds about the importance of pursuing their dreams and having the right friends.

"What I learned today at the Boys Leadership Summit is don't let other people tell you what you can and cannot do," said Demetrus Davis, 10. "They'll pull you down."

Other speakers at Saturday's summit included City Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Gerald Webb and Chattanooga CARES community outreach administrator LaDarius Price.

Price honored the founder and organizer of the first Boys Leadership Summit, Christopher Ramsey, who died in January 2021 from COVID-19.

"He was a giant for our community," he said. "Chris Ramsey was the epitome of servicehood. He left a lasting legacy that will never go away."

Price presented Chris Ramsey's widow, Lucretia, with a plaque in gratitude for his service.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter @LaShawnPagan.

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