Author and motivational speaker Jemal Gibson tells a group of boys at Sherwood Acres Elementary School Thursday that, like him, they can have success by wanting it, finding inspiration and working for it. (April 25, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- "Aspiration, perspiration and inspiration" was the message an author and motivational speaker left a group of elementary school boys with Thursday afternoon.
Jemal Gibson, author of "Drugs: My Curse, My Savior," was the guest speaker at the REAL Boys, REAL Men awards luncheon at Sherwood Acres Elementary School on Thursday.
Gibson, born to drug-addicted parents, started by addressing the concept of "Do as I say, not as I do."
"It is part of our nature to do what we see people do," he said. "You have to be more observant, because they will sometimes lead you down the wrong path."
Gibson, now living in the Atlanta area with his wife and three daughters, recalled being sent to live with his grandmother in the projects. At age 10, he witnessed his father getting shot and his brother using drugs.
By 16, he realized he was lost and decided to find a way out.
REAL Boys, REAL Men was founded by Martez Favis, a fourth-grade Language Arts teacher at Sherwood Acres, three years ago to help mentor third-, fourth- and fifth-grade boys at the school who come from a single-parent household, are of low-income or low achievement, or have behavioral problems at school.
"This program is incredible because it is catching you at the right age," Gibson said to the boys in the group.
The key to success he shared with the boys in the program is maintaining a list of aspirations and already considering them to be true, working hard -- or perspiring -- to make those dreams become reality, and finding the inspiration to do so.
"There are things in life that will happen to you that will be tough, but you have to (find inspiration)," Gibson said. "It is up to you to make it happen."
Gibson announced at the luncheon that his book had just received a movie deal and that Showtime network was set to do a miniseries on it.
Some of the activities REAL Boys, REAL Men has recently been involved with include a tour of Valdosta State University, as well as visits to Westover High School and the Albany Civil Rights Institute.
"At least twice a month we have a workshop or some other kind of activity," Favis said. "It is giving them aspirations to want to go on and be successful."
Favis said he was motivated to establish the program in hopes of helping those students he could most relate to turn their lives toward the better before it was too late.
"I'm a product of single-parent household," he said. "I met my father for the first time a couple of months ago, and I'm 26. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and college, and I'm working on getting my master's. You don't have to be a statistic (if you live in a single-parent household).
"The boys love it (the program). It makes them feel like they belong."
The organization takes on roughly 30 boys, each of whom is assigned to a male adult mentor who works at Sherwood Acres in some capacity, Favis said.
Butch Mosely, interim superintendent for the Dougherty County School System, and School Board member Lane Price were among the officials who were at the luncheon to offer their congratulations to the group.
Awards were given to the boys for various categories, including Perfect Attendance, Most Improved Academics, Servant Leader, Gentleman of the Year and REAL Boy of the Year. Following a special presentation to the mothers in the audience, each of the boys received a personalized autographed copy of Gibson's book.