Quintrell Johnson says he has been earning straight “A” grades since he started his master’s degree program.
“It’s big to me because I told myself I was going to work hard and be proud of myself,” he told Free Press about the results of effort.
“I’m in rehab counseling, working to get my Licensed Professional Counselor certification. I want my focus to be teenage boys.”
He works full-time in the St. Anthony Mental Health program during the day, puts in his hours of seeing clients for counseling in the evening to put in his 300 hours required for the certification.
Then he does homework for his master’s degree courses after that.
His days are long, but he gives a satisfied, relaxed smile as he talks about it.
Johnson, well-dressed in his suit, is a picture of what a successful, young black man looks like.
He is a good example of the results one program is producing in several schools in Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Thing is, not much of anyone would have guessed he would end up that way when he was in the eighth grade.
And that’s where Steve Davis’ Making of Men organization stepped up to intervene, showing Johnson a different way.
You do something!
Davis pointed him out just before about 20 young men and 15 community leaders gathered at John Marshal Mid-High School Thursday for the first of a series of Empower lunches at the school.
“When I got him in the eighth grade his principal told me if I didn’t do something with him, they were going to kick him out of school. That principal said ‘You do something with him or we’re kickin’ him out,’” Davis said with a big smile.
“And here he stands today working on his master’s degree.”
Johnson was smiling, too, clearly proud to have gone from a kid adults were giving up on to respected mentor from the community.
He is a good example of the results Making of Men is yielding in the community.
Davis told us the program was started because of his concern for young black men and the lack of positive role-modeling in some communities where they were growing up.
“I want to raise the expectation bar for these young men,” Davis said. “This is a group that is primarily supposed to be African-American, right?”
“But over time we’ve started to see that young white and Latino men need this. So we include them, too. The real lessons are learned when we come together. That’s more powerful.”
Davis told us the program is about “exposing, educating and empowering.” The lunches will be the primary tool for exposing the young men to leaders in the community.
Darian Featherstone is in his second year with the program and believes he has grown because of it.
What’s the biggest thing he has learned?
I’ve learned how powerful my voice truly was,” said Featherstone. “I always thought I was a good speaker, but Mr. Davis has put me in a lot of situations that have tested me and shown me that I can step up to the plate and show another side of myself that I really like a lot.”
The well-dressed young black man stood up straight and kept friendly eye contact during our conversation.
“I’m more outspoken about my beliefs and my feelings,” Featherstone said. “I like that.”
Before they all started through the food line, Davis reminded the young men there that “these are busy men,” but they made time to be there because they believed in the program and in their future.
“You’re going to get the best because I know you are the best and that’s the expectation,” said Davis.
Three of the community leaders there were from the upper ranks of the Oklahoma City Police Department.
We talked with Major Paco Balderrama, the first Hispanic officer to be promoted to major in the history of that department.
We wanted to know why he took time for the lunch.
I’m here because I believe it’s important for professional men to give back to the community,” Balderrama said. “In today’s day and age it’s more important than ever to do that, especially in the inner city.”
“I think these kids need to see examples of people who are devoted to their community, devoted to their families, devoted to education, devoted to giving back to their community.”