HOUSTON – 60% of students in HISD, the largest school district in Texas are considered at risk.
80% are considered economically disadvantaged. Suits for Success works with these groups.
It is a small rite of manhood; learning to tie a tie. Something most young men learn at home, but not always. Nearly 1 in 3 children in this country live in a household without a father.
On this day at HISD’s Sharpstown High school, in this group of 17 young men, the percentage is even higher. Just three of the 17 raise their hands to show they have a dad a home.
The other 80%, including Preston Seymore, do not. The last time he saw his father, he was six. He was nine when his little brother Jaylen was born. Preston remembers, “I had to change his diaper. I had to feed him.”
That’s was during the time they were with CPS, about three years. Now 17, Preston is still learning life lessons. We asked him, “Who’s working your house?” Preston replied, “Only me.”
He earns roughly 8 dollars an hour, at Chuck E Cheese. Where does his money go? To help pay bills. Preston says, “Like washing powder, soap or toothpaste or deodorant.”
He works 25 hours a week. On school nights, the Metro bus gets him home around 11:30 pm.
Preston, his Mom and his little brother live in a small apartment with government housing assistance. His mother says she was in bad place when her kids were with CPS but has completed her program and since regained custody of her kids.
Preston is candid, saying “Till this day I’m still afraid to ask my mom the reason how we had the bills paid, the reason we went to C.P.S. I still can’t stand in front of her ask that question.”
Two years ago, the Sharpstown High School Senior, decided to take control of his life. On his wall, next to 2 posters of rap stars, he has pinned a report card. He points to it with pride, saying “That was the very 1st report card I had honor roll.”
He credits counselors, teachers, mentors like the men who volunteer with Suits for Success. They teach a life skills class monthly on campus. The men work with at risk teens, young men, teaching them everything from banking to apartment leasing.
Completing the class means a new outlook and a new look literally. Suits for Success mentor Edward Pollard explained, “We didn’t want to give the kids the suits, we wanted them to earn it.”
The ultimate goal? To make the program to available to every graduating HISD senior who needs it.
That new suit isn’t just for graduation. It’s for job searches.
Pierre Watkins raises his hand, volunteering he has a job interview, today. Pierre says, “5:30 at Burger King.” Preston gives him a congratulatory fist bump, saying “My man! My man!”
A week later, Pierre texted us “I got the job!” Preston enters TSU in the fall.
Hard work is not always glamorous but it is the measure of a man.
If you would like to learn more about Suits for Success, email: Demanuel@houstonisd.org