Savannah Woman Molding Young Men of Honor - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah Woman Molding Young Men of Honor

Diane Jackson sells home-baked cakes to fund many of the trips her Young Men of Honor group takes. Diane Jackson sells home-baked cakes to fund many of the trips her Young Men of Honor group takes.
One of the rules of Young Men of Honor is that the 9-14 year-olds in the group are well groomed for their weekly meetings. One of the rules of Young Men of Honor is that the 9-14 year-olds in the group are well groomed for their weekly meetings.

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Every Tuesday afternoon in Room 30 at Spencer Elementary, there is what you might call manpower. 

And as much as it is provided by the city leaders that stop by, it comes from the group of school kids there to learn from their words. 

But it is generated by the dynamic woman who brings them all together. 

Diane Jackson started Young Men of Honor four years ago next month. And in that time, she has touched the lives of more than 100 inner-city kids, attempting to give them direction while changing that of the community around them. 

"I just got tired of seeing children I knew pictures in the paper,'' says Jackson, who is a paraprofessional at Spencer. "I got tired of seeing children who went to school with my children either dead or in jail. Or children my husband coached. Or children that I worked with at the school.'' 

So this mother of five girls started an after-school group and a mission to turn boys facing challenges into men who carry responsibility. 

She does that through workshops, history lessons and weekly talks from prominent members of the Savannah community.  

"She is truly a phenomenal woman who is committed to these young men and who goes beyond the call of duty to work with them,'' said Savannah mayor Otis Johnson, who is a frequent speaker at Young Men of Honor meetings. "When you work with one, it has a ripple effect and what she's doing is definitely having a ripple effect through her school and throughout our community.''

Guidance comes from the speakers that, in addition to the mayor, include doctors, lawyers and police officers, some who overcame some of the same difficult odds today's young men of honor are facing. 

But mostly, it comes from the energy, inspiration and unique sense of spirit that is so evident in Jackson. 

"We make history come alive,'' she says. "We read about stuff and once we read it, I say road trip. It's time for us to go somewhere. So we've visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, the White House, the Black Wax Museum in Maryland.

"When they see these places, it becomes tangible to them and they believe they can go anywhere.'' 

Because the group gets no public money, Jackson offsets the cost of the trips from another area of her heart that's almost as dear to her as the young men she works with. 

"I really didn't have the finances to do it,'' says Jackson. "So I knew how to cook and that's what I started doing. I started baking cakes and people started buying them.'' 

The group gets some of those cakes. But they get all of their benefits. 

"They will be the men that restore the family unit,'' Jackson says of the kids in her group. "Then our children won't be displaced any longer. There will be a family unit and it will grow stronger. And if the family grows stronger, the community grows stronger."

"I want to give them purpose for their life. I want to give them visions even if they don't have one. I want to say this is what you can be.'' 

She has already seen what they can be in the ties and tucked in shirts they wear to meetings and in the 18 members of the group who made Spencer's last honor roll. 

And the person who started it all, says it all started with a name that has become a code for these boys as well as a look to the future. 

"If they say it enough, they're going to start believing, I am somebody, I'm this young man of honor,'' says Jackson. "I don't care what everybody else says. I don't care if in my neighborhood I see shootings, I see drug dealers, I see all this stuff going on around me. I don't have to conform to that because I am a Young Man of Honor.''

On their way to being honorable men, molded by one special woman.

 Reported by: Tim Guidera, tguidera@wtoc.com - Read more of Tim's stories here.

Powered by Frankly