The Ourisman Cheverolet dealership in Marlow Heights, Md., recently took time to celebrate "Save Our Youth/Racing 4 Life (SOY/R4L)" during its first annual Car, Truck and Bike Show.
SOY/R4L is designed to empower youth in Prince George’s County by providing them with alternatives to gangs, drugs, crime and violence.
Using motorsports as a catalyst, SOY/R4L encourages students to consider science, technology and racing at an early age to keep their minds off the streets.
Douglas Roeser and Mecca Trotter-Roeser, president and founders of SOY/R4L, said it’s time for area businesses and community leaders to give back to the youth.
"We’re trying to keep their minds right," said Roeser. "We provide room for them to build their social skills through drag racing, while we build their literacy and reading skills with our partner in their educational development centers."
SOY/R4L has a tight-knit group of community leaders and program developers tied to its core that keeps the program alive and doing great things for the community’s youth.
Programs like Transforming A Generation (TAG) and the Alliance for Concerned Men have united to strengthen what SOY/R4L stands for.
Jonathan Jackson,16, had been a part of SOY/R4L since its infancy. He loved bikes and mechanics, and in the Roesers he found a second family and others with whom he could share his hobby.
But tragically, Jonathan died last September in a motorcycle accident.
"I never had any trouble with him," said his mother Jessie Jackson. "He would be up all night in the garage just working on his bikes. Sometimes I would have to go get him and make him go to bed."
Jackson was presented a plaque in honor of her son for his dedication to both the sport and the program.
"Jonathan was one of our first students," said Roeser, fighting back tears as he made the presentation. "We take this job seriously, and he wanted to do this. Jonathan will always be remembered and his name will live on."
The Jonathan Jackson Scholarship Fund will award one male and female youth from Prince George’s County with a year-long scholarship to WyoTech to study automatics.
Meanwhile, SOY/R4L has continued to enrich the lives of many students in the Prince George’s County area, and for those like Lamont Ray, 12, it’s only just begun.
"I race for SOY/R4L and I have so much fun. I’m learning and enjoying myself and I hope to make a lot of friends doing this," Lamont said.
Although the program is for drag racing and learning, it also provides a sense of self-fulfillment.
"The students get something interesting to do after school," saidTrotter-Roeser. "We’re here to cheer them on in a race, but to show them that it’s not always about racing and winning -- it’s also about seeing that you can do any and everything that you set your mind to.”