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Retreat will urge young men to rethink their dreams

March 25, 2009

What does "The American Dream" mean to you? It often depends on where you live and the messages your parents gave you, according to William Emanuel.

Emanuel, an adjunct professor of mathematics at Hagerstown Community College and operations manager of an engineering company, said that when he was growing up in New York City, he imagined the whole world was like what he knew.

But when he went to college, he said, he began to interact with people of different backgrounds and see that there was so much more out there.

His vision of the world and what he might do in it grew, he said.

He and a number of other educators will try to pass that experience on to young men during a weekend retreat to be held April 17-19 at the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center on Mount Aetna Road near Smithsburg.

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It's the ninth year for the Manhood Training Retreat, but its object remains the same, he said.

"We want to prepare young men to take up the role of man in the family and in the community, so that they can help lead the country and community and be positive role models for the youth who come after them," he said.

"What we have is people from Morgan (State University), Howard (University) and HCC to give them direction and purpose in life," Emanuel said.

"Many young people might not have the idea that they could even make it in college," he said.

That lack of thought about a college education might come from parents who are happy if their children just graduate from high school, he said.

As the young men interact with college faculty for the first time, Emanuel said, they might see something beyond that message.

Past retreats have focused on the false promise of athletics as a career, but Emanuel said that "The American Dream: Is It Real Or Is It An Illusion?" will key on how college can make a difference in the quality of one's life.

Emanuel had good examples of that as he grew up. Neither of his grandparents graduated from high school, but encouraged their children to do so.

His mother got her diploma, then became an LPN, Emanuel said. Then she persuaded her her children to do even more. One of them obtained a B.A. The second (Emanuel himself) received an M.A. and the third became a medical doctor.

In two generations, his grandparents' dream was realized, he said. He said he's pressed his children to do the same.

"When they graduated from high school, all they wanted was a new car and I said, 'Well, a new car has to be paid for,'" he said.

His daughter had worked for three chain restaurants during her high school days and at one of them, the manager was 48 years old and still living with his mother to make ends meet.

"I asked her if that was all that she wanted for herself," he said.

He told them about his grandparents, who bought a three-story house so all of the family could live together. Both grandparents worked at least two jobs to pay the bills.

His parents also worked multiple jobs, he said, and emphasized to their children that unless they wanted to do the same, they needed a college education.

The retreat will run from Saturday, April 17, until Sunday, April 19, at noon. In addition to the educational programs, it will include meals, an overnight stay and breaks for recreation.

The cost per person is $150 and not every young man who needs the training can afford it. If you would like to sponsor a youth, send your check to the Faith of Jesus Center, 935 Marion St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

For more on the retreat, go to www.peopleofcolor1.com

As school officials told me years ago when I worked with the student mentor program, you never know when something you say will make a difference. For some young man, this retreat might make all of the difference in the world.

Bob Maginnis is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Mail.

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