Feature Stories

Making a difference

On a Monday morning in late March, Deryl Bailey's gaze is unwavering. The object of his attention is Tommy Williams, a ninth grader at Cedar Shoals High School. Bailey has some questions about Williams' recent behavior, and he wants answers.

Williams is one of about 100 students participating in Empowered Youth Programs and one of the 45 young men in Gentlemen on the Move, a program aimed at developing and nurturing academic and social excellence in young African-American males. GOTM participants meet every Saturday on the UGA campus to study and work on social skills with graduate students and teachers from UGA and Cedar Shoals High School who volunteer as teachers and tutors.

Many of the young men in the program have had no male role models before joining GOTM and several are from single-parent homes. The program tries to fill a void left by the schools, which have very few African-American men as teachers.

"Students who have a positive relationship with teachers do well academically," Bailey said. "For black male students, that often doesn't exist."

Bailey created GOTM 15 years ago while working as a counselor in North Carolina high schools. He brought the program with him five years ago when he came to UGA, where he is now an assistant professor of counseling and human development. GOTM has since expanded beyond its original scope and now includes students of all ethnicities, female students, and middle and elementary school students (Empowered Youth Programs).

This year, Bailey has received local, statewide, and national accolades-the most recent are the 2004 Ohana Honors Award from the Counselors for Social Justice and the 2004 Multicultural Program of the Year from the Georgia chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education.

But the most significant events associated with GOTM happen without an audience-in classrooms, school corridors or perhaps a counselor's office. On this day, one such moment includes good news for DeVante Hunter, a fifth grader at Chase Elementary School. During Bailey's previous visit, Hunter was told that his behavior was keeping him off the list for an upcoming trip to the Tennessee Aquarium. However, after receiving a favorable report from Chase Elementary teachers and counselors, Bailey tells Hunter he's back on the list. Moments like this make it all worth it, Bailey said.

"I believe all kids are at-risk, but I also believe that all young people are also at-promise. The potential is there and it's our job to develop and nurture it. I only ask that students make progress towards their potential to be great and if they will do that much, in time success will follow."

Published Wednesday,