Ghandi once said, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Sometimes, with the fast-paced lives we all live, it's easy to forget that the world doesn't end or begin at our doorsteps. There's a big world out there and it's our duty to contribute to it, positively, by helping others. "101 Men of Hope" is an event created to promote volunteerism by encouraging men to get involved in community service through mentoring Washington metropolitan area youth.
A veteran educator in the Washington, D.C., area, Kevin Hallums created "101 Men of Hope" after becoming frustrated with the lack of male involvement in his school. Instead of just talking about it, he did something about it and challenged his friends and Twitter followers to volunteer one day of service. The inaugural event, at Imagine Hope Community Charter School in November 2009, was a tremendous success, and led to a sister event, "101 Women of Hope" in 2010 and 2011. Hoping to build on past successes, "101 Men of Hope" is scheduled to take place Friday, March 23, 2012 at Oxon Hill Middle School, in Fort Washington, MD.
John Richards: Introduce yourself...
Kevin Hallums: My name is Kevin Hallums, a/k/a "Uncle Scooty", Dean of Students at Washington Latin Public Charter School (Upshur Campus) and also, I guess, the creative mind behind 101 Men of Hope and 101 Women of Hope a/k/a Project 101
JR: What is 101 Men of Hope?
Kevin Hallums: 101 Men of Hope is a one-day community-initiative project that started in 2009 at Imagine Hope Community Charter School, that's where the "hope" portion came into play. At the time, when we started in 2009, I was the Discipline Coordinator, and also the positive character development coordinator at Imagine Hope Community Charter School. Imagine Hope Community Charter School just happens to be in between the two neighborhoods that I grew up in; Uptown NW DC and Langdon Park NE DC. One day a friend of mine was having some issues with her son at the school, I had to call her, to come pick him up. When she came to get him, she basically was like, "...you know, he needs you" I was like, what does that mean? I can't be a father to everybody. Basically, he's a little kid with a young mother, no father figure in his life and that pissed me off a little bit...just because I felt like she had put a lot of responsibility on me. It made me to go to my Twitter page to say that, you know what, you guys that follow me on Twitter, you guys come to the events that I do, whether it was when I was doing my clothing line or you know, whether it's the Rock Creek Social Club thing or whatever. You guys support me you know what I'm saying? I wonder if I can get 100 of you guys to come to my school to volunteer for a day. It was just a rant; I was just expressing my feelings, my frustration. A close friend of mine, Ian "iCan" Callender from the Sneaker Suite, picked up on it, and he was like "Yo we need to really make this happen".
I wanted to make it happen, but, I didn't see it. I didn't foresee it being as big as it has grown to be.
JR: You've come up with this great idea, but it has to be a lot of work. I believe that an idea is only as strong as the team behind it, who else is on Team 101?
Kevin Hallums: A few other friends who are very close and connected wanted to involve themselves as well. Patrice Cameau, she has her own PR firm, Commun Public Relations, she's a very, very close friend of mine. We came together and did the first event in 2009 which was 101 Men of Hope. It grew into the 101 Women and then the 102 Hands of Hope, just a lot of spin off of the first event. Also, we have Heban Andargie, the owner of Lux Lounge, who is actually my best friend and another close friend of mine, LaVan Anderson. LaVan has been involved with the event from day one; he did the photography, all the graphics and logos. I mean, pretty much, he did everything but he wasn't on the forefront. After the first event he kind of put himself out there and just saying that, you know, I want more involvement beyond this because I know that I can do more. So, if you go to the website now, you'll see all five of our faces. Because, at some point in time, you know, everybody had their contributions.
JR: People always talk about giving back, but you actually do it. Why is giving back important to you?
Kevin Hallums: Giving back is important to me...it's my life's goal. Forget everything else that I've ever done in my life. This was the one thing that I always knew that I wanted to do growing up. A lot of these urban areas in DC...I saw a lot of my friends come and go, either succumbing to drugs or selling drugs or just doing a lot of different things that they were doing that they probably shouldn't have been doing because they didn't have the right people around them. That right there made me say, like, in my life, the one thing that I'm gonna do is get myself together. And, then, when I get myself together, I'm gonna come back to the neighborhood where I grew up and I'm gonna pull those people's kids. The people that couldn't get away like I did. You know what I mean? I'm gonna try to help their kids to get away. I'm going to better myself so that I can help to better them.
JR: You've been in education for over ten years. In your opinion, how can positive role models affect a child's life?
Kevin Hallums: Oh man, I mean, think about it, how many kids in the city with no father figures? Just period, not even a male positive role model, because a positive role model can be female as well but we're just talking about how many kids in the city don't have father figures, you know, that don't know what it means to, to be respectful. Who don't know what the purpose of education is. Who don't know how the generation system works. You know what I mean? Our next generation is only as good as what we are. You know what I mean? It's all about planting those seeds.
It's super important. People think that everything is about what's written down and what's in books. It can't be when you got a city full of kids that can't even read. It has everything to do with building communities.
JR: What's your background in education?
Kevin Hallums: I started in education actually in middle school. I moved out of DC at the end of my middle school, junior high school career and started working in a program with special needs kids. I ended up going to Parkdale High School in Riverdale and I was a child development major, I actually taught my first class when I was 14 or 15, a Special Education class at Lamont Elementary. Then I went to study secondary education at University of Maryland Eastern Shore. I did not finish, but was still able to get a job in education because the demand for young, positive, African American males was so high. I was just one of those people that just seized the moment, took advantage of an opportunity that was given to me and just tried to better myself the entire time. I started off as a fourth grade teacher, then I moved out of the classroom as the In-School Suspension Coordinator. After that I became the Discipline Coordinator, then Discipline Coordinator and Positive Character Development Coordinator and onto my current position, Dean of Students.
JR: You created 101 Men of Hope because you were frustrated with the lack of male involvement in schools. Has it gotten better since 101 Men of Hope's efforts?
Kevin Hallums: No. I've seen signs, but in my opinion, it hasn't gotten better. Just because I know there is so much more that we can do. 101 Men of Hope [laughs] it's a rock in the ocean. You know what I mean? It's too many kids in the city, too many kids outside of the city. It's gonna take more than us, if you're talking about a number, it's definitely not a "101" [laughs], this is just the start.
JR: How would you convince someone to volunteer?
Kevin Hallums: I mean, the best way that I could tell you is, it has to start somewhere. Everybody has that bone in them; they want to do something, they just don't know how. I think this community project caters to a younger audience, you're surrounded by your peers, you're surrounded by people that you know. It's a great opportunity for you to meet other people. You're all coming together with one goal and actually getting something done. It's a one day event so there's no pressure after that, so it makes it a lot easier for people to come out and give their time. Now you got people reaching out to me, wanting to start mentoring programs, wanting to bring in motivational speakers. It can turn into so many different avenues but it's all about helping kids, you just gotta get out there and do it, you never know what impact you can make.
JR: Your first event was at Imagine Hope Community Charter School, 101 Women of Hope was at KIPP DC and your upcoming event is at Oxon Hill Middle School. How do you select the sites for your events?
Kevin Hallums: Well, we go to the schools, we visit them and we research. What are the needs of the schools? We just happened to start at Hope because at the time I was working at Hope. I wanted to pick another school that I felt needed our help. A lot of people were confused because we went to a PG county school because it's usually in DC. But you know these kids are still in our area, a lot of kids that grew up in DC have actually migrated out. A lot of our volunteers live in PG County, Virginia and Montgomery county; we're trying to touch everybody.
JR: What's next for 101 Men of Hope?
Kevin Hallums: In May, the Friday before Mother's Day, is always the 101 Women of Hope. We're looking at several different sites, two public schools in SE and another school in NW.
Oxen Hill - http://www1.pgcps.org/oxonhillms/index2.aspx
Kipp DC: http://www.kippdc.org/