The boys, many from South High School as well as different areas of Valley Stream and parts of Queens and Hewlett, have heard from ministers from New York City like James Singletary and Derrick McQueen, counselors and others. While eating dinner, they’ve participated in activities that involved learning their African names and presenting drawings and writings to the group. They also discussed topics like identity and issues of violence and bullying in their schools, among others.
Patrick Egbuchulam, 14, said he thinks 15 percent of his peers at South High School have experienced violence in the way Jeyson Jones did. Egbuchulam said if more people learned what he did at W.A.N.T.E.D. meetings, the community would be a better place.
“We can use this information and pass it on to friends so they know what to do in times of danger,” he said. “Some bullies target kids from certain nationalities, but if they learn more about different cultures, they will learn to respect others.”
The Rev. Jones plans on graduating a class from the program four times a year, with a celebration for the first set of W.A.N.T.E.D. boys on June 30 at 7 p.m. at the church. She is working to receive funding for future classes through partnership grants and other sources. Her daughter is also planning a similar mentoring program for teenage girls.
Village Trustee Dermond Thomas, who attended the May 26 session, said Jones will also sit on a blue ribbon panel. Here, Thomas said Jones and other community members will brainstorm ideas for recreation and meeting the needs of Valley Stream teens and children. “There is an urgent need to make sure our young people are productive,” he said. “We’re bringing committed people under on roof to figure out ways to improve the activity of young people. People like Rev. Jones make meeting these goals easier.”
Jeyson Jones said he was not shocked by his mother’s personal goals for the program, nor was he taken aback by his assault being a catalyst for the W.A.N.T.E.D. project. However, he was surprised by how many of his peers came to meetings each week. “A lot of kids don’t want to be trapped in a room for two hours, but I haven’t heard about anything like this,” he said. “It makes you learn to love yourself.”