Group helps young fathers connect with their children
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CAROLYN P SMITH
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Shaquille Armstrong is helping young fathers learn the importance of getting involved in their children’s lives. “There are certain things boys are more comfortable talking to their father’s about rather than their moms,” Armstrong said.
His passion for helping to mentor, teach, and share experiences with other young men inspired Armstrong to start an organization that he calls No Father Left Behind.
In June, the group marked the grand opening of its new headquarters in Belleville, where Armstrong invited people to come out and celebrate.
“About 30 people came out . It was a real event. We thank those who showed up. Going forward, we hope too see more people at our events,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong wants young fathers who have stepped up and are now participating in their children’s lives to be celebrated, with the hope that their energy and efforts will be passed along to many other young fathers.
For at least the last couple of years, he and several young fathers have gotten together to talk about how to be an active part of their children’s lives.
He is excited about the new location for No Father Left Behind. “It’s going to be a great place for us to gather and share thoughts, ask questions, receive mentoring, make plans and more,” Armstrong said.
Fittingly, he said, the opening of the new headquarters was Father’s Day weekend.
Armstrong said young fathers in his group who had not been able to step up for their children in the past for one reason or another should be commended for what they are doing today. “ I know they feel good and I feel good for them,” he said.
Pam Manning, former superintendent of the Cahokia School District, said she was not surprised to learn what Armstrong was doing to help young fathers. She has known him for a number of years and said he has always been an inspirational person.
“He is to be commended for what he is doing to make sure no father is left behind,” she said “Our children need their fathers in their lives,” Manning said. “Shaquille always does positive things.”
Some of the men in No Father Left Behind serve as mentors for other fathers. It is a close knit group, and the mission is simple: Fathers learning what they need to do to be there for their children.
Armstrong said some of the discussions have been about parental conflicts and how to resolve them peacefully. Others have been about how members of the group can help young fathers who lack resources to buy the essential things their children need like toiletries and clothes.
Armstrong, 24, is single with no children. His experience growing up without his natural father in his life helps inform his mentoring of young fathers today.
He recalls having many questions he felt he needed to ask his father but couldn’t. “My mom always tried her best to answer my questions, but there were questions I had that I needed to have answered by my father,” he said.
Armstrong said he would be remiss not to give his stepfa- ther credit for loving him and making sure he was prepared for adulthood. “I was blessed to have a stepfather who loved me and wanted me to be suc- cessful in life,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong knew there were others in the world who grew up without their fathers in their lives. He wants to share his experience so young fathers today know what it is like for a kid not to have his dad around.