Tutors from churches across the metro area received encouraging words during a recent charity event for the faith-based program called Whiz Kids.
The Whiz Kids' Seeds of Hope charity event Tuesday at the Cox Convention Center served as a volunteer appreciation gathering for the 1,400 men and women who serve as tutors for the program.
Whiz Kids, a ministry of faith-based City Care, connects 57 inner-city
One of the guest speakers for the evening was Gerald McCoy, an Oklahoma City native, Southeast High School graduate, University of Oklahoma graduate and former OU All-American defensive tackle. McCoy, now a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, told the tutors and other Whiz Kids supporters that such programs are needed “to give those kids a little push” in the right direction.
“I made it out because God allowed me to, but I also had so much help,” McCoy said.
“I didn't make it there (NFL) without the support and help from the ‘405,'
Seeds of support
Author and youth advocate Wes Moore shared similar sentiments.
“Your support matters,” Moore told the crowd of about 1,200 people.
Moore held the audience captive with true-life tales of his upbringing and that of another man who shares the same name. Details of his account are chronicled in his book, “The Other Wes Moore.”
He said shortly after he was named a Rhodes Scholar, he was surprised to learn that another man named Wes Moore was being sought in connection with an armed robbery in which a police officer was killed. The “other Wes Moore” was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Tuesday, author Moore said he questioned why their lives turned out so different since they came from similar circumstances: Both are black; were raised by a single mother; lived roughly a few blocks from one another in Baltimore, and faced academic and delinquency troubles. Moore said he sent a letter to the other Wes Moore in prison, and they forged a years-long acquaintance that eventually led to the book.
Moore said he realized that the people and communities helping to shape children's lives figure significantly in a person's outcome. He said his father, a broadcast journalist, died when he was 3, and his widowed mother moved him and his two sisters to the Bronx, where the family lived with his maternal grandparents.
Moore said despite the best efforts of his mother and grandparents, he often skipped classes at the private school they saved money for him to attend. He said his mother, with help from extended family, sent him to military school after threatening to do so many times.
Moore said he eventually learned that the world did not revolve around him and that people needed each other to survive. He said he also learned that education matters and expectations matter.
“We are products of our expectations. We either live up to them or live down to them.”
He went on to become a decorated military veteran, White House Fellow and businessman.
Praise, change for Whiz Kids
Moore lauded the Whiz Kids program for “not cherry-picking which kids make it.”
“It's about all of us. It's about the choices we make in our lives and the people we have in our lives to help us make those choices,” Moore said.
He said there are “Wes Moores” in every neighborhood — youths who are one decision away from a life-altering event for either good or bad.
“Our society is filled with ‘others,'
Meanwhile, at the end of the evening, Whiz Kids' longtime director Masie Bross gave a short speech and announced her retirement. She introduced her replacement as longtime Whiz Kids advocate B.J. Webb.