- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 19, 2004

Ballou Senior High School students learned the facts of life yesterday during a conference for young men.

The “Man 2 Man Conference” was designed to pair male Ballou students with mentors who can guide them toward productive lives — and in the process improve life at the beleaguered Southeast high school, where a student was shot and killed in February.

The meeting, led by the East of the River Clergy-Police-Community Partnership, is part of the Second Annual Father’s Day Weekend Commemoration to call a “moratorium on murder” in the D.C. area. The daylong event brought together approximately 50 students and 40 professional men for workshops, panel discussions, pizza, door prizes and straight talk.

“I think it is important that principals, parents and mentors from around the city participate in the process of healing Ballou,” said Clifton L. Coates, the principal of Coolidge High School in Northwest. Mr. Coates, a father of four children, served on an afternoon Q&A; panel.

“Collectively, we can certainly take care of all of these young black men,” Mr. Coates said.

The day started with breakfast, followed by workshops that focused on men’s health and the harsh reality of incarceration.

In a workshop called “Risky Business,” about 40 teenagers listened while Robert Jiggetts, 43, of Sasha Bruce Public Charter School, talked on life choices and the consequences of not choosing wisely.

“Fellows, protect yourselves. You only get one life,” he said.

Mr. Jiggetts discussed abstinence, HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases and the rise of syphilis nationwide. The animated health educator engaged the young men with his knowledge of the lingo and emphasized the importance of having a thorough checkup each year.

“Looking around the room, the chances are some of us will die of prostate cancer. Black men are dying of prostate cancer every day in this country. Prostate cancer is real. If you have older men in your family, urge them to go to the doctor,” he said.

The teacher said it’s a myth that all D.C. teens are putting their lives in jeopardy. A large majority of teenagers are abstaining from sexual activity, he said.

“Many of our kids abstain for religious reasons or career reasons. And many are afraid of contracting a disease,” Mr. Jiggetts said.

“We talk about bad kids, but there are a lot of good, good kids [out here] and I try to encourage them, especially our young black men. We’ve got to continue to have events like these,” he said.

Kenneth E. Barnes Sr., the founder of ROOT Inc. (Reaching Out to Others Together) and sponsor of the Father’s Day Commemoration, sat in on the workshops. He said the Man 2 Man Conference signals the beginning of the community’s taking responsibility for its neighborhoods and children.

“Apathy also begins from the bottom up when young people are murdering one another. We are forcing the community to rise up and take charge — we then force our leaders to become more effective. Politicians only pay attention to money and votes. If you don’t have any money and don’t vote, then they don’t pay attention,” Mr. Barnes said.

“And we’re saying, ‘You are going to hear us.’ This is a quality of life issue,” he said.

Anthony Roseboro, 17, a junior at Ballou, said he gained knowledge about HIV/AIDS during the lecture.

“The entire day was good. I liked the message to stay in school. Keep a clear head and stay out of jail,” Anthony said.

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