JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Their goal is to get 1,000 men in Duval County schools for the first week of classes and one community group partnering with pastors and men across Jacksonville is happy with the results they've seen so far.
A few weeks ago Bishop John Guns, founder of Operation Save our Sons, met with men from across the city who wanted to be a part of the "1,000 men in schools," a program backed by the school superintendent, the mayor and the sheriff.
These students didn't expect to see Scott Cotton in the hallway on their way to class. Cotton volunteers at James Weldon Johnson Academic Career Training Center, as part of the "a call for 1,000 men" program. It's an initiative to get men inside Duval County Schools for the first week of class.
"We had the opportunity to go into the classroom and greet and meet some of the students. Some of the students were in the hall getting ready to have their name badges (taken) and we actually had an opportunity just to speak to them and encourage them and let them know how they start the year off today and yesterday is how they can finish it. That it's their choice," Cotton said. "That's most important thing for us who volunteer, when we come in the school that is not a standoffish, that it's no walls built up."
It's that open approach that the school's principal, Aleya Prier appreciates.
"It's phenomenal. It is an amazing support for us and just to see the students actually inquire about who these men are and to see them actually engage with them it means so much for us," Prier said.
Prier said that consistency is key. The men have been volunteering all week, and plan to keep coming back even in the weeks to come.
"I hope they take away that they are loved, someone cares about them, someone is interested in spending their time with them. You know we all have jobs, we all have other places that we could be but we had taken this time out to spend with them because we deem it important," Minkah Prier, a volunteer said.
Men being present and turning a simple greeting on the way to class, means so much more.