100 Black Men of Atlanta continues Day One tradition, yearlong mentorship, 11-year partnership
Rain pounding the pavement did not deter some 70 African-American men from suiting up and welcoming the young men of B.E.S.T. Academy back to school on August 1.
For the fourth consecutive year, members of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Emerging 100 of Atlanta, The Collegiate 100 and 100 Black Men of America lined up outside of the school’s main entrance. As students exited buses and cars, they entered a cheer tunnel of high-fives, fist pounds, hugs, chest bumps and words of affirmation.
B.E.S.T. Academy educates boys in sixth through 12th grades. This annual Day One tradition illustrates the 100 Black Men motto, “What They See Is Who They’ll Be.”
“The 100 Black Men of Atlanta represent the image and the paradigm that we want these young men to actually strive for,” said Anthony Flynn, 100 Black Men of Atlanta executive director and COO. “They are successful leaders in business, in education, in government, in medicine, in health and sciences.”
The cheers don’t end after Day One. The 11-year partnership between B.E.S.T. Academy and The 100 Black Men of Atlanta continues throughout the school year.
“It’s important that we have consistency in their lives, not only on Day One but for the rest of their lives,” said Larry Johnson, 100 Black Men of Atlanta board chair.
Founded in 1986, the 100 Black Men of Atlanta is an African-American volunteer organization focused on education, enrichment and empowerment through mentorship and community service.
Its Pathways of Development Success (PODS) initiative provides B.E.S.T. Academy students with the opportunity to see careers in action and interact with leaders within their fields of interest. PODS include the Lawyer for a Day program, a music partnership with Kuk Harrell Foundation, and the Move on When Ready dual enrollment partnership with Georgia State University, Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Atlanta Technical College.
“So often, what we see on TV is usually African-American males in some sort of negative situation, so ‘the 100’ was designed to not only mentor the young kids but also to demonstrate that there are African-American males who are doing positive things,” said Curley Dossman, 100 Black Men immediate past national chairman and current board member of the local chapter.
Ray Singer is the 100 Black Men of Atlanta program director and B.E.S.T. Academy school liaison. He oversees yearlong initiatives that include one-on-one and group mentoring, tuition assistance, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs.
“We’re here every day. We’re on the ground. We’re making a difference. The students know who we are. The parents know who we are. The community knows who we are,” Singer said. “Our overall goal here at B.E.S.T. Academy is really to instill hope in our young men.”
Singer estimates that the 100 Black Men partnership has yielded $1.2 million in scholarships and more than $200,000 in programs for B.E.S.T. Academy students.
The 100 Black Men of Atlanta is “the glue that sticks us together,” said B.E.S.T. Academy Principal Dr. Timothy D. Jones. “We’re always excited to have good role models in front [of] our boys, role models willing to tell the story. ‘I lived your life. I endured your situation. I came from where you came from or where you are.’ That’s meaningful, and that’s significant because they have someone to relate to on a day-to-day basis, but also someone who induces this idea that it’s possible. And if it’s possible, I’m possible.”