Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Project Urging Fathers to Reach out; A Group Wants Male Role Models to Prepare Youth for a Promising Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Project Urging Fathers to Reach out; A Group Wants Male Role Models to Prepare Youth for a Promising Future

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

Some say that every problem in Jacksonville's most troubled communities can be traced to family.

Young men can't find jobs because they're not prepared. They commit crimes. They drop out of school. And community leaders say it's the fathers who are to blame for these issues.

"The teaching says the fruit don't fall far from the tree," said Ysryl (pronounced Israel), a local activist. "So if our sons are thugs, if they don't have values, that's because of the tree."

About 50 men gathered for Project Reach's Fatherhood Workshop at the Beaver Street Enterprise Center on Saturday. Project Reach is a local nonprofit organization geared toward youth and family issues.

The men discussed not only how they can be better fathers to their own kids but how strong male role models can serve the entire community.

The topics jumped around from job opportunities and values to leadership and race relations.

One obstacle the fathers have to overcome is a divide between the youth and the elders in the community, said discussion leader Irvin Cohen.

A table full of belts at the meeting helped symbolize this wide generational gap, as some leaders collected the belts to hand out to the community to combat sagging jeans. The elders in attendance just couldn't understand why young men in what they called "the hip-hop generation" wear their pants so low.

Organizer Reggie Brown said it's imperative that fathers not only understand today's changes, but the future children face. He said changes such as the prospect of a $4 gallon of gas will present new challenges.

"If we don't prepare our kids for what it's going to be like when they're our age, then they won't be able to deal with it," he said.

Stewart Washington Sr. …

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