LAURINBURG — A middle school club whose mission is to assist others is looking for a little help itself.
The club — Carver Middle School Blue Blazers — began three years ago with five students and has grown to more than 30 members.
With that growth, the Blue Blazers needs more of its signature jackets to outfit all the students. The group started a GoFundMe page to raise money to purchase more gently used blazers and pay the transportation costs for the students to perform service projects once a month.
“Last year, we had about 45 blazers, but we let some of the kids keep the blazers when they went to the high school, said James McLean, one of the club’s advisors. “There was no way we could say no, you have to leave it here. I think it gave them a sense of belonging as they took that blazer to the high school. We feel it’s something we owe them if they want to take the blazers with them, which puts us in a difficult situation because now we need more.”
The goal is to raise $2,500 so McLean and the other advisors — Dennis McFatten, Hashan Tyson, Jordan Reilly, Roosevelt Pridgen and JOY Ministries Pastor Mitch Johnson — can go to the thrift stores in the area and purchase more blazers for the students. Blazer donations are also welcomed and can be dropped off at Carver Middle School during regular school hours. McLean said the group can never have too many blazers because the students in the program come in all different shapes and sizes each year.
“People bring the blazers in and sometimes don’t realize it might not be the right size for any of the kids we currently have in the program but we keep them because next year it might fit one of our young men,” McLean said.
The mentoring club usually ends the school year with about 34 members in grades sixth through eighth. The organization started as part of the district-wide Dress-for-Success initiative titled Bows and Bow Ties initiated by Superintendent Ron Hargrave.
“It’s a group where we can mentor young men in our community and help the eldery and those in need,” said club member William Douglas. “We need more young men on the right track and stay out of trouble.”
Along with community service projects, the Blue Blazers also focus on teaching the young men in the club long-term life lessons — some they can use now, others that will help them down the road.
“I joined the Blue Blazers because it was a group that kept me out of trouble and kept my head on straight,” said 14-year-old Jaheim McRae.
The advisors also focus on being positive role models for the students and being there for them even after they leave Carver.
“We have a combination of kids that represent our school population — all socioeconomic classes, colors, grades, behaviors — we have them all mixed together in the hope of being influential for change,” said McLean. “We started out three years ago with five students, all eighth graders. Our hope was to find kids who weren’t the shiniest pennies in sixth grade and work with them over the next three years.”
Club members also see themselves role models.
“I think it’s good for young people to follow in our footsteps and know what to do and what not to,” said Tyler Barfield, 14.
In order to become a member of the Blue Blazers students have to be nominated by a current member and once they join the group, they are a member forever.
“It’s tough to get in but you’re a blazer for life,” said McLean. “We want these kids to just be the face of Carver but the face of our community. Our goal is to work with these kids forever. Eighth grade is a tough time for these young men, and young ladies, our goal is not to put you in a blazer for three months. Our goal is to be with your forever and ever amen.”
The advisors, especially McLean, are so passionate about the Blue Blazers program because they know it makes a difference in the lives of the young men that are selected to join.
“We want to be that influential piece in their life,” he said. “When we get these kids they are 11 years old in the sixth grade, they don’t get blazers until the eighth grade. We get 540 days with them — 180 days each school year — our goal is to go beyond those 540 days and be with them at the high school. Long-term life lessons are one of the key things we’re trying to teach.”
Tyson said McLean was one of his mentors and knows the importance of the young men in the Blue Blazers having role models they can turn to when faced with difficult situations.
“It’s very beneficial to the success of these young men to have positive role models and mentors,” said Tyson. “I’ve been blessed to have mentors like James McLean. If it wasn’t for my mentors I think I would have been lost. I got a text last week from a blazer who is now in high school, we talk life lessons the boys might not understand as an eighth grader because you haven’t faced it. Now he said he feels like he’s prepared for some of the things he’s coming into contact with because we’ve talked about them. He didn’t understand it then, but he understands it now.”
There are about 21 current members, but that number is expected to grow.
The current members of the Carver Middle School Blue Blazers are: Jaheim McRae, JJ McLean, Michael Strickland, Christian Cole, Javon Williams, Michael Quick, Ean Powell, Walter Morrison, JaQuale Parker, Aaron Ganzy, Tyler Barfield, Trey Chavis, Jamall Quick, Zeke Martin, Kyrese Stewart, Walt Bounds, William Douglas, Terry Settles, Ja’Carl Hasty and Justin Walters.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.