NEWTON GROVE — A group of inquisitive students listened to several life lessons from Sheriff Jimmy Thornton as he warned them about not being responsible and dangers in the world. But he enjoyed offering encouragement for the future too.
“There’s no one sitting in this classroom that can’t accomplish what they want to do,” Thornton said. “In time, it can happen.”
The visit from the leader of Sampson County Sheriff’s Office was one of several highlights during the UPLIFT Summer Academy, which had another successful year season.
The 21st Century Afterschool Program held at Hobbton Middle School, provides academic activities during the school year, weekends and during the summer. It stands for “Using Positive Lessons to Improve our Future Tomorrows” and is operated through Project Outreach, which was formed in the late 1990s as nonprofit organization. The purpose is to provide academic and life skills enrichment.
“I think he related to them very well,” said Glenn Faison, executive director of Project Outreach. “All of the things he touched on is stuff they need to know.”
While sharing his beginnings which began in Sampson County, Thornton talked about how the county’s law operations and its jail system — a place he stressed to stay from. He got a lot of attention of students while talking about negative effects of social media, such as letting people making posts about being away from home and other inappropriate matters.
“It will come back to haunt you,” Thornton said about posting the wrong thing. “It goes worldwide.”
Faison said the multi-week camp had a great turnout, made possible through presenters such as Thornton. Now in its third year, he hopes the camp continues to grow. About 50 students attended the camp.
“It’s been a blessing and the support has been phenomenal,” Faison said about supporters of his vision. “I’m excited and I’m expecting to get better.”
In addition to the visit from Thornton, some of the other highlights included art, Zumba, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities.
“We had a great group of young people and staff that work during the regular year,” Faison said. “All of them are teachers and we’re very grateful for the three weeks.”
Sylvester Pittman, a teacher from Lakewood High School, said it’s a plus for the community.
“I’ve been in education for 30-something years and it just revives me every year, to make me want to continue working with young people,” Pittman said.
Faison said another exciting moment was traveling to the Charlotte area for Joe Gibbs Racing experience. The visit began with ministry which included several speakers including Renaldo Wynn, a former NFL star. A tour of a racing facility followed. Students were shown the science, technology and engineering of racing.
Participant Israel Graham, a fifth-grade student from Hargrove Elementary, is one of many students who benefit from the program.
“The summer program is great and the program during the school is great too,” Graham said.
In addition to fun activities such as dodgeball, Graham received many educational lessons such as turning decimals into percentages and fractions. Like other students and Faison, he enjoyed the talk from Thornton.
“His speech was great,” Graham said. “It was very inspiring.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.