Historic Jackson County youth program comes to a close

Walter Caldwell Jr. looks to carry the torch for future youth programs. (WJHG/WECP)

MARIANNA, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Sunday morning at the Pope Chapel Church in Marianna, the Save the Children/Boys to Men Choir Black Awareness program wrapped up after 30 years of serving the community.

The program aims to help children showcase their talents and abilities as well as provide life lessons and keys to success along the way.

Past and present members were on hand to share their stories and experiences, like Allen Clayton, who said, “As we went through school this was something that I participated in that was a positive influence for me, kept me out of trouble, and was something to do. It gave me a reason to come back and give back every year.”

Another former member Philip Sylvester added, “When you’re a child you don’t really realize what’s going on until you get grown and have your own children. Then you realized how much the adults sacrificed just to help you.”

Director Carol “Cookie” Marks said she is passing the torch to the younger generation.

Linda Long, the Youth Advisor for the Jackson County NAACP said, “It shows that it’s time for the younger ones to step up to the plate. She’s mentored some of the boys and you can see what they’re doing in the community. It’s that circle of life.”

One of those looking to carry the torch is youth pastor Walter Caldwell Jr., who was the Emcee of Sunday’s service.

Caldwell said, "It’s important for me to carry on the message of our importance in history. Really carry it on, the message that we can be a vital part of society. We can be great, we can be successful, we can be successful role leaders.”

Even though the 30-year program is wrapping up, organizers said the future is bright and in good hands for Jackson County youth as they wait to see how the next 30 years of faith and fellowship turn out.

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