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Straight Talk mentors, encourages local youngsters

Unfortunately, not every child has someone to look up to, but there is one organization in Oxford that wants to change that trend.

Straight Talk is a mentoring program run by local males who want to make sure younger children have strong male role models in their life that they can talk to.

Casey Dunn helped launch the program in Oxford in August 2013.

“We try to open their eyes as much as we possibly can,” Dunn said.

The group meets weekly on Mondays at the Stone Center located at 423 Washington Ave. at 5 p.m.

Dunn said the group does other optional activities outside of weekly meetings, but tries to focus heavily on discussion regularly.

The class attendance average is around 30 children from the ages of 10 to 17. They are dealing with various home issues along with school issues. The group leaders who mentor the younger students have a history of going through the same problems growing up, so they can give advice from experience.

“We try to keep on the right path and keep them there,” Dunn said.

Dunn first got the idea for a mentorship from his first Kairos Prison Ministry trip. He traveled to Parchman Penitentiary and ministered to nearly 50 inmates about the importance of a relationship with God.

Kairos Prison Ministry is a Christian faith-based ministry that tries to meet the needs of incarcerated men, women, children as well as their families.

Dunn said after he spoke, he realized the greater importance of trying to keep young men from going down the same path to prison.

“It gave me the courage to start something like this in my hometown,” he said.

Dunn said Straight Talk tries to encourage young men to think for themselves and how to not fall into a group of friends that do not have their best interest in mind. He also wants them to learn to respect others around them by abstaining from bullying as well as how to deal with being picked on in school.

“We are all different, you know, we aren’t all the same,” Dunn said.

Latia Johnson’s son, Xakylan Johnson, has been attending Straight Talk regularly since the program started.

Johnson said her son has learned to be a better team leader within his group of peers.

“It’s a good positive environment,” said Johnson.

She said he has grown into a better man and his relationship with God has grown as well. Johnson attributes his success in the program to his group leaders and their interest in seeing him do well in life.

Bibs Peters said her 17-year-old son Quay Quarles did not want to attend his first Straight Talk. Now, he loves going. Her son has even gone on out-of-state trips with the group.

“He’s becoming a leader now,” Peters said, proud of his progress.

Peters said she has seen the most difference in his attitude and behavior.

She said he used to have some issues, but now that he has mentors he can count on for help, he’s happier.

“They never say no to helping him,” Peters said.