‘I am no different than you’
Speakers tell youth to follow dreams, kick start anti-violence initiative
by Matthew Strother News editor
Although he’s been to the White House twice and had roles in blockbuster movies, Elijah Kelley emphasized to hundreds of youth at a packed William H. Griggs Recreation Center that they have the same opportunities he has.
“I played basketball on these same courts,” he said, gesturing to the goals that surrounded him as he spoke in the middle of the gymnasium. “I played flag football, and ran up and down Hamilton Road. … Any opportunities that I had, you have. It’s as simple as doing what it is that you want to do and stick with it.”
Kelley was one of the speakers at Saturday’s “Taking Care of Home” event encouraging youth to aim high, achieve their goals and make a difference as a way to deter the from crime and violence. The event was the kick off for the recently formed Troup County Anchor Foundation, set to establish “hopes and dreams in the community no matter one’s age, race, or gender.” The stated goal of the foundation is to provide educational tools and work skills to turn negativity in the community, displayed through violence and unlawful actions, into positivity.
“There is no issue in this town that we can’t solve,” Kelley said. “We just have to get the community together, stick our chest out and get it done.”
Organizer Ameia Cotton said the foundation came together when she and others decided to do something in response to recent violence in the city. They wanted to do something positive for the community to bolster it against future violence.
Tyrone Poole, a LaGrange High School graduate who played 14 years in the NFL and was two-time Superbowl champion, is the author of “Ultimate Success in the Game of Life.” He told parents at the event that they are potters, tasked with molding the clay that is their children at a young age to shape them properly.
“My formula for success is that I believe life is based on principles,” Poole said. “The reason we fail to achieve in life is when we forget about principles.”
He said instilling basic ideals like saying “yes ma’am or yes sir,” and the importance of punctuality in children goes a long way.
Poole added that all goals start with a passion. For Poole, it was football, and he had to endure a lot and work hard to pursue that passion and stand out as an exemplary player to be drafted into the NFL.
“I believe the role models start in the home, with the mother and father,” Poole said. “… Athletes are influences, we prove to young people that you can be what you set out to be.”
Anchor Foundation motivational speaker Oshay Smith told the group that youth have incredible power, and teaching them how to use it is what determines their future. He said all children are princes and princesses, and should be taught and encouraged to achieve their potential.
He said the Anchor Foundation would start holding two monthly classes, beginning Sept. 9 and 11, that will teach a range of subjects from parenting to anger management, to help educate the community. He said people can learn to change the direction of the community and make it a better place.
“I thought about the incredible power that youth has,” Smith said after reading a poem about youth. “They have the power to be kings and queens, their future is bright.”
Kelley also enumerated the ways the children could go on to achieve great things.
“I see joy and hope in all the children here,” Kelley said. “You’ll never know who will be the next Tyrone Poole, the next Elijah Kelley, or the next Barack Obama.”
At the end of the night, Cotton said the event was a great success. The group handed out backpacks to children and raffled prizes donated by local businesses. Local groups, including the police department, also had booths for people to find out more information about what they do. Law enforcement and firefighters also interacted and handed out items to children at the event.
“I thank everyone who came out and supported us in this endeavor,” she told the group, particularly thanking, in addition to her fellow organizers, LaGrange Mayor Jeff Lukken, councilman Jim Thornton and Public Safety Chief Lou Dekmar for their support.
“I think it went great,” Cotton said after the event. “Everyone in the city came out to support this, and it was awesome.”
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