The challenge: Selling education to today's star-struck youth

March 28, 2007|by BOB MAGINNIS

For more than five years, William Emanuel has struggled to get the message out to young people, particularly people of color, that education is the only sure path to a better life.

It is a hard sell, he admits, because the media show so many pictures of multi-millionaire athletes and entertainers.

Caught up by these images, he said, young people who have talent in the areas of math and science instead choose to put their efforts into sports and music.

Emanuel and other presenters will try to counter that message in a three-day retreat that begins on Friday, April 20, at the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center on Hagerstown's Mount Aetna Road.

It will be the sixth annual Manhood Training Retreat and this year's theme will be "Addressing Our Circumstances and Dilemma."

Emanuel said that the circumstances are the same as those found in a recent CNN report titled "The Condition of Black America."


Emanuel said the main circumstance affecting black America is that "a lot of black males don't have good jobs, don't graduate from high school and live in single-parent families where they don't have a lot of leadership from a male perspective," he said.

The "dilemma" of the title is how to get young people to make good choices about their future.

One part of the seminar will focus on "A Career Choice: Entertainment vs. Education."

This session will be presented by the Rev. James Griffin, who will point out that of every 10,000 high school seniors playing interscholastic basketball, only three will ever be drafted by an NBA team.

The figure is slightly better for football players - eight of every 10,000 who play high school football eventually will be drafted by the NFL. The odds against becoming a nationally recognized success in music or acting are even greater, Griffin said.

Emanuel said that even for those athletes who are successful at the professional level, there always exists the possibility of a career-ending injury.

"With education, if anything happens, you still have a back-up plan," Emanuel said.

In a 2005 interview with Emanuel, an electrical engineer by training, he told me that "our goal is to reach young men, to help them understand what it does mean to be a man."

Learning to be a true man, he said, means learning how to prepare for life, for college and how to conduct a relationship with a woman, before and after their marriage.

"We're trying to make them into true men with some purpose and some direction so they can help their communities and themselves," Emanuel said.

In a 2004 publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services written to promote fathers' participation in the Head Start program, the authors cited research showing why it's good for fathers to be involved.

"Scholars now know that boys and girls who grow up with an involved father, as well as an involved mother, have stronger cognitive and motor skills, enjoy elevated levels of physical and mental health, become better problem-solvers, and are more confident, curious, and empathetic. They also show greater moral sensitivity and self-control," the authors said.

The retreat not only will cover the spiritual, but the physical as well.

"We also talk about health and what can happen if you don't take care of yourself. Many people are overweight and a lot of people who are my age have problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure," Emanuel said.

Between sessions, youths who attend the session will be able to take nature walks, jog and canoe on the lake there.

Now for some bad news. Some of the young men who need this help most cannot afford the $140 tuition, which covers two overnight stays and five meals.

If you can help, checks may be made payable to the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center. Please note that it is for the Manhood Retreat. Mail them to The Faith of Jesus Center, 935 Marion St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

For more information, call 301-791-5776 or visit Emanuel's Web site at

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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