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Fatherless New Orleans males find guidance from ‘Son of a Saint’

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
It was over a year ago that we told you about Son of a Saint founded by Bivian ‘Sonny’ Lee, III, a true son of a former Saint, former defensive back Bivian “Sonny” Lee, Jr. You’ll remember that Sonny’s father passed away at the age of 36 leaving behind a wife and two young children, Sonny’s sister Tamica, and Sonny himself who was only three years old at the time.
 
You’ll also remember how Sonny explained how hard it sometimes was growing up without a father, suffering from a lack of confidence and searching for validation. And unfortunately, Sonny’s story is all too familiar in our community. There are tons of young men in New Orleans looking for someone to guide them through this game of life, to provide them with support and encouragement, to show them the power they hold and how to harness it to be successful. Instead, there are tons of boys maneuvering on their own, making mistakes, hoping that everything works out in the end and not knowing what to do when it doesn’t.
So, Sonny decided to do something. He decided to make a change…no matter the size…a change all the same and started Son of Saint. From tutoring and mentoring to learning how to play tennis and tying a tie correctly to proper etiquette at the dinner table, the kids at Son of a Saint are getting a well-rounded introduction into life. Sonny said, “This past year has been better than expected. We've been doing everything that we said we were going to do for our kids. We have all of our kids in sports programs, they're all receiving tutoring and educational assistance, as well as mentoring every other weekend. We've also added a mental health component that was not part of the initial plan, which allows our kids to see a therapist one-on-one and has been incredibly helpful. That one-on-one with the therapist goes a step deeper than what we provide with our mentorship sessions. In addition, we had our first gala this year hosted by Steve Gleason of the New Orleans Saints and it turned out to be really successful.”

And not only are the kids enjoying themselves, but Sonny and his team have seen a lot of improvement in them over the past year. “When we first started the program, I think the kids were a little skeptical of who we are and how long we were gonna be in their lives,” Sonny explained. “Now, I believe that we've successfully gained their trust. Our kids will be with us until they’re 18 year, so we're not trying to force things on them. It's more about getting their attention and making sure they have a good time with these experiences. The goal is that by taking the time to help them grow, they will eventually start emulating their mentors in a positive manner. When you force stuff on a kid, they become a little resistant to the message that you’re trying to get across, so we do it in a patient way.”
 
He continued, “Ours kids are a bunch of characters and we have a good time with them. One in particular reminds me of myself. It's just him and his mom and he has a lot of anxiety, and anger issues. Now, he's acknowledging those issues and learning to manage them. He told me the other day, ‘Mr. Sonny, thank you for helping me to learn what was going on with my anger.’”
 
Son of a Saint hopes to add 10 kids a year to the program. “It doesn't matter what area of the city you grew up in or income status. If you are fatherless, you’re at risk and are welcome to apply.”
 
Son of a Saint kids make sure to learn the basics…not chewing with your mouth open, opening the door for a woman (hey, can some of our adults join too!) “Once you get the basics down and you get their attention, they start to notice other things for themselves. We want great things for them. We want them to be doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and artists, so we're doing everything we can to lead them in that direction. When we asked them initially what they wanted to be, a lot of them said in sports or music. We try to instill the importance of education being a prominent focus. Get your education first and let sports and music be your backup plan.”
 
Sonny and Son of Saint is certainly making a difference in the lives of many New Orleans young males. New Orleans thanks you, Sonny...it can't always be easy being a son of Saint, but you've taken it and allowed others to prosper. Who Dat!
 
For more information about Son of a Saints, please visit their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 August 2016
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