Frank Long Elementary School’s True Explorers were told at a recent meeting to never give up on their dreams, even when they make mistakes.
Liberty County Sheriff Steve Sikes, Hinesville Mayor Allen Brown and Ernest Davis, president of Guardians in Action, spoke before students of the True Explorers mentorship program at their monthly breakfast Feb. 10. The program seeks to build leadership qualities and positive attitudes.
True Explorers is made up of fourth and fifth grade boys who are recommended by their teachers because they show leadership qualities.
Sikes told students he wanted to be sheriff since he was young.
"Every person is born with a creative idea from the Lord — every child. When I was a young boy, my grandfather was sheriff of this county, Paul Sikes," Sikes said. "I looked up to that man and respected that man and I said, ‘Oh, one day I would love to be sheriff.’"
His father, Bobby Sikes, also became sheriff and was a mentor to him.
Sikes said he "got off the path" his father was trying to put him on and eventually turned his life around, while still having a desire to be sheriff.
"If you got a desire in your heart from the Lord, do something towards that desire every day," Sikes said, "if it’s no more than reading a book or magazine article. Study how someone else has done it. At the same time encourage your friends to reach their potential."
Sikes described his job as "the buffer between the strong arm of the law and the citizens of the community" and acting as a "referee," making sure the deputies and citizens do what’s right.
Sikes said he had gone on 37 mission trips and that being sheriff is the largest mission he’s ever experienced.
One of Brown’s goals growing up was to earn a sports scholarship to college, which he accomplished by signing at the University of South Carolina.
He said he didn’t play much at USC.
"I was a substitute, but I didn’t do very good in school," Brown said. "I got lazy and complacent. Don’t let that happen to you. After four years, I had not finished college. I dropped out, sat around for about six months feeling sad for myself."
Brown and his dad agreed that he should go back to college and Brown graduated from the University of South Carolina.
Brown had an interest in politics and eventually became mayor like his father, James Brown, cousin, Buddy DeLoach and great-great-great grandfather, Alfred Iverson Hendry, Hinesville’s first mayor.
"We always make mistakes. Don’t worry about making mistakes, correct it and keep going," he said.
Davis talked briefly about having "real heroes."
"I want you to be realistic about the people you call heroes," Davis said. "Your real heroes are around you every day, investing in you. These people (principal and teachers) invest in you so you can turn around and give back. These are your heroes because they are living examples of what you should be doing and looking forward to do."
Davis will be the main speaker for the next meeting.
Previous speakers included Jaalon Frazier, Richard LeCounte and coach Kirk Warner of Liberty County High School.
Ida Chance, FLE guidance counselor who is in charge of True Explorers, said the program is in its third year. True Explorers has two cohorts, the first in the fall, from September to December, and the second in spring, January to May. Each student has a mentor they check in with every day. They are given a set of goals, created together by their teachers and parents that should be accomplished each day. Teachers mark on a form whether the goals were reached and parents sign it, staying updated on their child’s progress.
The school’s Spirit Squad is a similar program for girls in third through fifth grade. They are taught about leadership, positive attitudes, school spirit and sisterhood, Chance said. The Spirit Squad performs at parades, anti-bullying rallies and other local events.