Alumni Share Empathy, Understanding, and Advice

Jokwaun (center) and Mike (right) talk to students in the gym.

 “What happens after students leave Boys Home?” is a question staff members hear often. Yesterday, recent graduates Mike and Jokwaun (2017 and 2016) visited campus to talk to the current students about their experiences at Boys Home and after graduating. They also asked current students about their future hopes and plans, and shared some good advice.

In his time at Boys Home, Mike says his biggest struggle was learning to control his emotions, illustrating his point with a story about basketball. One day, Mike and his teammates showed up to basketball practice to discover that their coach had quit unexpectedly. While they were wondering what to do, Mr. Whitmer arrived.

“I don’t know anything about basketball,” he said. “But I can teach athleticism.”

That day, learning athleticism meant running. A lot. For almost the whole practice, the team did nothing but suicides (sprinting drills going back and forth across the court). Toward the end, Mike and his teammates were exhausted. Mike lay on the floor and decided not to get up. However, when Mr. Whitmer told him if he got up and ran one more in less than 16 seconds, the whole team could go home, the rest of the team helped him up and urged him to try one more time. That time, with the encouragement of his teammates, Mike ran the last one in 15 seconds.

Looking back, Mike realized that the biggest challenge that day was learning to overcome his emotions. Laying on the floor, he was feeling tired, and frustrated, and possibly angry. Once his teammates helped him move past his emotions, he was better able to give it his all, run faster, and not let his team down.

Mike urged current students not to let their emotions control them either. He advised them not to focus on the now, or on their feelings of frustration, or anger, but instead, to focus on where they want to go, and how they’re going to get there. Every challenge is an opportunity to improve yourself.

Afer Mike spoke, Jokwaun talked about his time after leaving Boys Home. He told about how his first few years after graduating were challenging, being back home without much structure in his life, and close to the same negative influences that brought him to Boys Home initially. However, he soon realized that that wasn’t the lifestyle he wanted to have. After some thought, he decided to enlist in the army. Next thing he knew, he was sent to Fort Benning, GA, for basic training!

Jokwaun’s decision also had an unintended ripple effect. Before visiting the army recruiter’s office, he called Mike and told him he was getting his life back on track and enlisting in the army. Mike, too, was struggling with finding his place in life after leaving Boys Home. The call from Jokwaun served as a wake-up call, encouraging him to reevaluate his priorities and change his life for the better.

Today, Mike is a successful entrepreneur, running a sneaker business and an ATM business. He also works as a chef at Uno’s and in his free time, he writes and records his music. Jokwaun is a member of the US Army, stationed in Korea. In his spare time, he also writes and records music. All at Boys Home were happy to see them, and we wish them all the best!

Jokwaun and Mike pose with houseparent Mr. Smith.