Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gamma Pi Marches Into the Lives of Young Men Housed at Regional Juvenile Facility

Brothers organize in the parking lot before entering facility
One by one, they strode along the concrete sidewalk up a small incline and into the building through one of an array of electronically secured glass doors. Each one walked with a different cadence, a different length in their step, a different gait, a slightly different path yet along the same route. Symbolizing the fortitude of Omega, one determined Brother, apparently fresh off a leg surgery, dragged one leg on the ground with his injured leg propped up on a scooter. The Brothers of Gamma Pi Chapter marched in by two's and three's and at different paces, but they were united in their focus on the young souls waiting inside the Cheltenhan Youth Detention Center.

A Sense of Urgency

On this scorching hot Saturday, June 29, with morning temperatures in the 80s, the average person would have viewed entering the facility only as a relief from the heat. But the more than 50 Brothers of Gamma Pi welcomed entry into the center as a chance -- an opportunity -- to change the lives of young men housed there.

The annual visit to Cheltenham is never routine. Brothers never follow the exact same script. And this year, Brothers used the visit to share their own stories of struggle within the legal system and how they recovered. The lesson for the young men was, "These may be your circumstances today, but tomorrow can be brighter."

Cheltenham Youth Detention Center
Behind the Walls

Once they cleared extremely tight security, the Brothers entered a large gymnasium and took seats on four rows of chairs facing the bleachers that jutted out from the wall. Just about every Omega man wore the Purple and Gold. Shortly after Brothers took their seats, about 30 young men wearing baby blue shirts and khakis were escorted in by the black-clad security guards and other staffers, where they sat in the bleachers. If somebody had walked in from the streets, they would have assumed the guys in Purple and Gold and the guys in Blue and Beige were about to square off. Quite the contrary. Yes, it was a fight that was about to take place. But the Brothers were only helping the young men to fight past their current situation and see bright futures.

Everybody Has a Story

After Bro. Keeper of Records & Seal Otis Fowler warmed up the audience with a run-through of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc, history, the information flow took a hard turn toward real "in-your-face" reality.

One by one, Brothers shared some real and raw stories. Just like you would expect from accomplished men of Omega Psi Phi. They did not hold back.

One Brother talked about how his association with the wrong crowd a decade ago ended up with is incarceration for two years on charges for a white collar crime.

Another Brother talked about how when he was the age of the young Cheltenham residents, he too bounced around in juvenile detention for a series of crimes that had his mother saying she had given up on him. He talked about the intense pain of hearing that.

Another Omega man shared how his love -- his obsession with money -- led to his downfall at an early age. Today he is a Chief Information Officer.

Another Brother shared how his exploits as a young teenager kept him off course for so long that he did not begin college until age 25.

A Brother from a nearby chapter came by to give the young men some "current" information. He had just been released from a 51-day jail stay just a month ago after pleading guilty to a white collar crime. With incarceration fresh in his mind, he pleaded with the young men to spend every waking hour working and planning their exit and looking to the future. His message was to visit the library often. Make plans. Talk to people on the outside. Find a mentor. Make good use of the time and begin to visualize "beyond here."

And a Brother who recently retired as a high-ranking police officer closed it out by offering a written strategy for the youth to begin rebuilding their lives, challenging each one to ask of themselves, "What are you going to do about it and when are you going to start?"

The entire two-hour encounter was powerful and uplifting for Gamma Pi and the few guest Brothers who joined us, as several of the young men asked questions and gathered around the Brothers at the end of the presentations to seek more wisdom and encouragement. On the way out, many Brothers were heard repeating the oft-used phrase, "If we can just change one life." They way things went Saturday, it could very weell be several lives that were redirected by the brothers' outpouring.

Thanks to Bro.Tiresias McCall, a professional counselor, for organizing a great and challenging visit. It was a truly great and moving day for Gamma Pi Chapter and for Omega Psi Phi. This is what this Fraternity is all about. This is what Gamma Pi -- The Super Chapter -- is all about.  We could feel the applause of the Founders watching over us.

Due to restrictions, no photographic or video equipment is permitted inside the center


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