BALTIMORE,Md. — Even though it was the first football weekend in Baltimore, fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, mentors and mentees put down the pigskin to spend a day engaged in learning what it takes to shape boys into men at the “Me and Pops” event on Saturday, September 24, 2016, sponsored by the PATIENTS (Patient-Centered Involvement in Evaluating the Effectiveness of Treatments) Program, Pharmaceutical Health Sciences Research Department and the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
The first annual Me and Pops event was an opportunity for the PATIENTS program to extend its reach to African American boys, young men and their adult male role models in West Baltimore and Baltimore County, according to Rodney Elliott, former University of Maryland basketball player and current student and co-coordinator of the Me and Pops event.
Damien Cooper, director of Neighborhood Relations for City Council President Bernard C. Young and founder of Project Pneuma, brought a vanload of young men to spend the day soaking up the inspirational atmosphere. Project Pneuma is a mentoring organization teaching Baltimore boys and youth how to remain calm and better handle stressful situations.
“We like to give our young men exposure to real life and new possibilities. When they get an opportunity to get out of their communities and see men who look like them and who are making it, then they want to work harder, be a little smarter; focus on doing what’s right in the community,” Cooper said.
Marques Howard, age 13 who attends Cross County Elementary/Middle School said the Me and Pops event reinforced the lessons he learned through Project Pneuma.
“Today I learned again that there are multiple ways of resolving conflict without violence. Sometimes you just have to get your parents involved,” said Howard.
Seminars were filled with good advice from successful professionals like Sergeant Louis Hopson of the Baltimore City Police Department. Hopson, like all of the professionals invited to speak to the young boys and men at the Me and Pops event, remains close to community causes. He spent the day showing the young men ranging in age from eight to 18 that their lives mattered.
“Our children are that important. I’m a shift commander at Juvenile Booking and a shift commander at Central Booking. I see young people come in all the time,” Hopson said. “I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a father come in to pick their child up. The first male they meet is a police officer and judge and that’s not how it should be.”
“Young black men learn through emulation. They need opportunities to watch adult males and repeat what they see,” Hopson said to the audience.
Hopson along with University of Maryland Medical Resident Geden Frank and Ako “Chana” Onyango, director of Community Mediation of Baltimore and other established professionals spoke with youth participants during the event’s two interactive panels. Youth asked the panel personal questions about the path to success, relationships and about their life regrets.
Members of the panel were honest with the young men, like successful businessman Rod Stokes who confirmed the relationship between reading and success in a way young people could understand.
“I wish I would have read books earlier,” Stokes said. “I read everything I can about everybody I want to be like but what if I started that practice earlier in my life,” Stokes asked the wide-eyed young men. “I may not know every successful entrepreneur personally but I’ve met them through their books,” Stokes said.
Participants and parents ended the day shooting hoops at the University of Maryland at Baltimore’s penthouse basketball court.
Dr. Jasel Martin from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy who organized the event believes the day was the start of a tradition for the University of Maryland Baltimore, the state’s premier flagship health-focused university.
“You cannot understand someone’s health condition and how to improve their health condition unless you understand their social conditions and cultural traditions,” Dr. Martin said. “The young men had a great day— a very interactive day. I’d like to see a continued connection to the young men that are here today while we reach out to others.”