Twenty years of changing young lives
Twenty years ago, Hank Wall saw the travails confronting black male youth and decided he couldn’t stay on the sidelines just watching.
So Wall, now a retired postal worker, and several of his friends found a way to reach burgeoning young black men and instill in them a sense of hope, while also providing guidance, encouragement and discipline. They formed Brothers Organized to Save Others, known commonly as BOTSO, as a pathway to make a difference.
“It’s tough love,” Wall told The High Point Enterprise.
Two decades later, about 5,000 young black males in the High Point and Greensboro areas have gone through the BOTSO mentoring program. On Saturday, during the third annual Community Kids Festival, BOTSO will mark its milestone anniversary by welcoming its graduates and adult volunteers to a celebration. The festival, which is open to the public, is from noon to 5 p.m. at Washington Terrace Park on Gordon Street.
Wall said that he couldn’t have imagined in 1993 that the nonprofit group he helped start would last so long and touch so many lives.
“It’s God’s grace that we’re still around,” said the 63-year-old High Point native.
The founders of BOTSO, along with Wall, included Julius Clark of High Point, David “Bunny” Moore and Sam Rhodes of Greensboro and Reggie Gaines of Winston-Salem.
A key to BOTSO’s success is that mentors start reaching kids as young as 6 years old and will follow them through until they graduate high school as teenagers, Wall said.
“That’s the uniqueness right there — the consistency,” he said.
Wall said that he periodically runs into young black men who went through the program. Whether they were in for a year or longer, he said, they say the program’s devotion to them helped them mature and prosper.
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Here are some of the young black men who grew up in the High Point area and went through BOTSO during the past 20 years:
Bobby “Fuse” Green – Graduate of the Atlanta School of the Arts, now graphic artist who has worked with Nike on project involving pro basketball star Kevin Durant and tennis great Serena Williams
Troy Carter – Staff sergeant in Army at Fort Campbell, Ky.
J.J. McQueen — Former star football player at East Carolina University, now documentary filmmaker and photographer
William Hayes – Former star football player at Winston-Salem State University now in National Football League
Tyler Gilreath – Serving in Navy