Officer and Gentlemen Academy students with their advisers.Lynn Trautmann photo courtesy of Officer and Gentlemen Academy

More than 150 community members, City of Evanston and civic leaders, teachers and administrators attended the Officer and Gentlemen Academy Empowerment Breakfast held at the Hilton Garden Inn on May 19.

Now in its second year, OGA began as a collaboration with the Evanston Police Department and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 as a way to connect to and mentor young men of color in the community. This year the program has expanded to include students from all middle schools and one student from Evanston Township High School.

The breakfast for the gentlemen and their families was hosted by Karli Butler. Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson, Evanston Police Sergeant Anthony Correa and District 65 Superintendent  Paul Goren spoke.

Quoting the late Chicago poet Mike Hawkins, Dr. Goren  told the audience that mentorship at its core is about love, and he said he was encouraged by the love and support of this program.

The morning’s keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors, told the boys to keep standing up against the images in the media and to stand up for each other. He told them, “You have an enormous gift, and the gift is the Evanston community. We are rooting for your success. But not only that, we  expect you to be successful.”

Officer Adam Howard, co-founder of the Officer and Gentlemen Academy, offered his thanks to the many people who have supported the program. He said, “Often, we as police officers aren’t given the opportunity to humanize ourselves in public. But, in fact, we laugh, we cry, but more importantly, we love. Ultimately we as police officers have a platform to use to make a positive impact on our young people – even if that means having an outpouring of public emotion to serve as a teachable moment for our young men.”

The morning program culminated with an awards ceremony, with the following gentlemen honored: Exemplary Leadership, Darrion Coleman and Celister Tre Wright; Dressed for Success, Michael Adams; Academic Excellence, Michael Burrell; Most Improved Gentleman, Demetrius Campbell; and the highest award of the day, presented by Mayor Stephen Hagerty, the Quintessential Gentleman, Joseph Masalu.

The Officer and Gentlemen Academy is headed by Officer Adam Howard, Detective Ken Carter, Detective Mario Miller, Officer Bobby Robbins and Officer Ervin deLeon with support from Georgia Martin and Tawana Sudduth in Development and Fundraising and Nicole Robinson as Special Events Coordinator. This year’s students are Noah Lewis, Darrion Coleman, Gabriel Rosen, Christopher Cannon, Carlos Connor, Michael Adams, Camarius Morgan, Micheal Burrell, Tristian Thomas, Celister Tre Wright, Christian Simpson, Demetrius Campbell and Joseph Masalu.

The program runs for 12 weeks during the school year, focusing on male etiquette, professional attire, developing and maintaining peer relationships, goal setting, self-confidence, improvement of decision-making skills, positive interactions with law enforcement, knowledge of the law and financial literacy. It includes Saturday team-building activities to reinforce the weekly lessons.