This edition's Celebrate Community spotlights the relationship between mentor and Whiting Field ABH1 Anthony Squires and Men In Action youth Xavier Harris as well as MIA director Morris Smith's vision for the community and youth support group going forward.
This edition’s Celebrate Community brings the story of Marlon “Anthony” Squires, a mentor in the military and Xavier Harris, a young man who went from getting into fights to better grades and an interest in joining the U. S. Naval Sea Cadets. The two found each other in a nonprofit organization familiar to some, Men In Action (MIA) Outreach.
ABH1 Squires said he wanted to join MIA while hearing founder Morris Smith’s presentation at Whiting Field.
“He came to Whiting to give a speech and by the second paragraph I was sold.” Squires said Smith was sincere about what he wanted for the community’s youth. “Everything he promised is here. Great leaders lead from the background. He’s a good example for the community.”
Originally from Stockton, California, Squires said his rough childhood gave him the right background to relate to at-risk youth in Milton. After an eye-opening military tour all over Asia and the Middle East, Squires said, “For me, I knew I wanted to be a mentor…As a mentor, I bring the ability to show youth how to relate, and give them a direction past high school,” whether the youth chooses college or the military.
Harris said he joined MIA because he was doing horrible in school. “They came to (PaceHigh School) and picked boys who were struggling.” He said, “I thought it was weird, but we did activities, fun stuff and fundraisers.”
Harris said he used to get in fights at school, but Squires’ influence turned him around. He said he always wanted to join the Navy following his father’s tradition but then he passed away four years ago.
Squires said when he learned of Harris’ history of fighting it could have been intimidating, but he said, “I know this. I experienced it.” He said he hopes Harris chooses the military now as “a choice, not an escape.”
Harris’ mother, Mattie Harris, could not be more proud of the change in her son. “His personality has changed a lot because he’s a teenager now. He’s growing up. He’s more happy, outgoing, and wants to do a lot more. (They’re) teaching him to get out and help in the community.” In addressing a parent unfamiliar with MIA, she said, “MIA is not the typical organization that a child would just go to and…hang out. MIA will empower your child for better success. They strive for perfection within their age group and within the individual.”
As to Squires’ mentorship, Mattie Harris said, “I’m happy MIA picked Xavier for him…Xavier needs that strong role model. Mr. Squires has done that…(Squires) always goes over and beyond what he needs to do as far as what MIA requires him to do.” She referenced how Squires bought books for Xavier, but they were books on leadership. Squires said they were John Maxwell and Dale Carnegie books.
Squires said at this point in the relationship, it’s like he and Harris just hang out now. He said Harris has met his mother and daughter. Harris said, “I can’t say I never had a father figure.”
Since Squires started as Harris’ mentor, Harris switched schools from Pace to Victory Performing Arts Academy. He said he’s always been into dance, but his focus is still on the military. Squires encourages him to go to college first since he could make more money.
Currently, Squires said he’s working on getting Harris into a program on NAS Whiting Field where a young person can get a real job through the Morale, Welfare, Recreation (MWR) department. He said it would look good on Harris’ college application showing the ability to land a government job and run a program. Involvement in the Sea Cadet program is also a draw for both college and a possible enlistment with a higher pay grade, said Squires. He said he is currently looking into a membership with Whiting Division.
Being military, Squires said he has to relocate now and then, but the foundation is set between himself and Harris’ family. “I wish there were more programs like MIA. There are a lot of lost youth and men with great experience.”
MIA began, Smith said, in January of 2013 with the four founders and only male volunteers, which grew to include female volunteers by the summer of 2014. Smith said MIA’s mission is improving academic achievement, self esteem, social competence, and avoidance of high risk situations in at-risk youth. He said he wants MIA to be there for youth in their time of need, when they don’t understand what’s going on, and when they have major decisions to make and goals to realize.
Smith said, “We also want to insure they have the tools that will help them become a successful male adult.” As an example, he said, “Every year we go on a college tour and have at least four workshops.”
Going forward, Smith said he wants to establish relationships with the schools the MIA youth attend to better monitor grades and behavior. He said so many of the boys dream of becoming a professional athlete so they need help putting school first. “Some may not even make the high school team.” Smith said between the school, parent, and mentor, MIA can get a correct assessment.
Smith said the main improvement he’s seen in the youth at MIA is confidence and sociability. At first, he said, they would only interact with the same race and gender, but now little boys can communicate with adult women. He said now schools are starting to refer students to MIA for community service hours.
“I like to see MIA being the community. We need more teachers, more law enforcement, different types of people and walks of life,” Smith said, “starting to give back to kids.”
In MIA’s future, Smith said he imagines first a closer relationship with 4-H. “I’d love to be a visible partner with 4-H, everybody uplifting the community and youth,” he said.
He also envisions MIA having its own building where youth can come for after school programs to receive computer education, hang out off the street, tutoring, and have some kind of snack. Smith said, “If we want kids to be better, we have to show them better. We to change our mindset. It’s not about the individual person, race, or gender, but it’s all about working together for the betterment of kids. In 30 to 50 years you’ll be out the door, so you’ll hope you raised your kids right."