Forty teenage boys from West Gadsden High School spent Friday night together at the first "Boyz Night Out Lock-In and Basketball Shootout" in the school's gymnasium. Students in grades 6-12 took part in the 18-hour event which was sponsored by the Gadsden County Juvenile Justice Council and West Gadsden High School. The boys were also joined by their fathers and mentors.
"Our goal is to have people here who can offer you information on almost everything in life. We want you to take advantage of all of the knowledge and information these people have to offer. Everyone of them has volunteered their time to some out to help you so stop by the tables and get the information. If could make the difference in your lives," said Keith Dowdell assistant principal at West Gadsden High School.
Valuable information was provided by Workforce Plus, Gadsden County 4-H Club, Tallahassee Community College College Search, Department of Juvenile Justice, and several others. Kris Odakowski, children's librarian at the Bill McGill Library brought free paperback books.
Motivational speakers included Antonio Johnson who talked about the court system and how young lives can be ruined by one mistake and bad judgement. He cautioned the young men to be careful of who they associate with and why it is important not to follow the group.
"Sometimes men you have to talk away. it may not be a popular move but it can save your life. Popularity isn't all it cranked up to be if it will mean the difference in you being free and being incarcerated. It's not too cool to be popular in prison," he said.
County Judge Kathy Garner told the students of her goal to become a lawyer could have derailed if she had made poor choices and bad decision during her formative years.
"I believe in you. You are our future and we are here for you. I was born in Gadsden County. I went to the public schools, don't let anyone or anything get in your way. Stay out of trouble and make your parents proud," she said.
Minister Anthony Parker talked about gang involvement and the gang mentality. The effects, he said, can be life debilitating or deadly.
After a rock climbing competition and a cookout of hotdogs and hamburgers, the boys got ready for the Midnight Madness basketball challenge which featured students matching skills with area probation officers.
Saturday morning activities included talks on personal hygiene and health and "real Men Read."
"This was very, very good. We have to pay attention to boys and teenagers so that they will grow up to be productive men. This sleepover comes at the times they are headed back to school and hopefully it will give them something to think about as they make those decisions the others spoke about," said Parker, a member of the planning committee.