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Crossroads Empowerment Camp makes a difference in youth education

by Allison Stalberg

Greensboro’s Crossroads Empowerment Camp is looking to recruit middle and high school youth. The organization has made a solid footprint in the community. Existing to give young men leadership tools needed for their future, the camp has helped over 45 students get into college during the past seven years.

“The Empowerment Camp is an opportunity for the young men to learn several life and etiquette skills they can use moving forward in everyday life,” said camp’s co-founder Arturo McKie.

“For example, wealth management, personal and professional etiquette, positive thinking, formal dining, and men’s health are just some of the topics covered at the Empowerment Camp.

“The camp features local and out of town guest speakers to present real world examples of how to apply the skills being shown. It’s an opportunity for the young men to ask questions and really gain an understanding of how important these skills are to implement into everyday life.”

Director at FaithAction International House, Reverend David Fraccaro, was one of the guest speakers for the camp.

“In my five years I haven’t received a whole lot of calls to go speak to African American youth,” said Fraccaro. “I was struck by the fact that they wanted to hear my voice and very quickly, what initially turned into a presentation for me turned much more into an opportunity to learn, listen and see into a window of lives that I don’t usually have the opportunity to see into. So it was a privilege and honor for me to walk a mile in the shoes of these young leaders.”

Fraccaro discussed the importance of getting outside your own box.

“What can make you a leader is your ability to grow in your understanding, trust and cooperation of people who may be different from you in race, culture and faith,” he said.

“I talked about how everyone can relate to being in a cafeteria and turning around from getting their food and seeing seats of people and wondering and kind of panicking in that moment, ‘Which table do I sit in?’ And they all really got that right away because they spend every day at school. And making a larger analogy for life and really empowering them with the confidence to know that they really belong at every table. To not fear those differences, but go after those opportunities.”

The camp’s founder and executive director, Gerard Truesdale, loves to see how quickly positive change comes to the involved students.

“During the etiquette workshop the students were asked if they knew difference between the different sizes of forks and many of them said no but as soon as the 45 minute workshop was over, the students knew which fork to hold, what side of the plate the napkin’s going to be on, and the water they are supposed to drink. The main point to me was seeing these guys develop and discover these etiquette tools that definitely will be used for the rest of their lives.”

McKie finds value in that both he and Truesdale grew up in Greensboro. The bonds made between them and their students are something that makes the Empowerment Camp stand out.

“We have a real connection with all of the students in ousr program. We went to the same schools, played at the same YMCA, had some of the same teachers and experi ences in the community,” McKie said.

“We can relate to our students, which builds a unique relationship of trust and understanding. They see success in our lives which gives them encouragement to know it is possible if you have a plan and stick to it. The program was designed to really relate to the students and give them a long term plan for success.”

The camp is proud of their success which includes a 100 percent college acceptance rate for each student that graduated from their program.

“Our main focus is to encourage each participant to either pursue a college degree, or pursue a trade of some kind,” said McKie. “We really stress personal and professional development and to always focus on a plan for the future. So far each student that has come through the program has applied and been accepted to a college or university.

“We have also worked with the Salvation Army and the Greensboro Urban Ministries during the past six years; and through our Crossroads Thanksgiving Turkey Drives we have fed over 450 families in the Greensboro community. We have an annual clothing/winter coat drive and donate to the local shelters as well.”

In the future, Truesdale hopes to expand to possibly help out young women as well.

“We want to be able to continue what we are doing for the community but doing it in a greater depth and making more of an impact by helping out more students,” he said. “In these times I feel like it is important if there’s someone out there for the youth, if there’s an outlet for them to understand things that they might not necessarily learn at home or school. That’s the whole point of Crossroads. That is why we’re here.”

The Crossroads Empowerment Camp is currently recruiting more students to participate in the program that will begin in September of this year. Anyone interested can contact them at crossroadspts@gmail.com or visit www. crossroadpts.org to learn more about the program.

The program is free, meets twice a month every other Saturday from 11:30 to 2:30 at the Providence Baptist Church with lunch provided. !

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