By Tia Lynn Ivey
If it takes a village to raise a child, then Madison is well-equipped for the task.
A new mentorship program for sixth-grade boys called “M-Powered” has begun in Madison, challenging kids to “engage, experience, and encourage” because “together, we become M-Powered.” Local couple Lindsay and Todd Peaster spearheaded the initiative, reaching out to local community groups, businesses churches, teachers and parents to bring together sixth-grade boys each week to have fun, learn some life-skills and build up confidence, self-esteem and healthy relationships.
“One of our missions is to help foster, promote, and support healthy race relations among our boys and even us as the adults in their lives,” said Lindsay Peaster. “It is meant to be a time for our sixth grade boys to come together, share a meal, play, and just be.”
M-Powered started August 10 of this this year and already, 30-50 boys show up every Wednesday afternoon to participate.
“We have been overwhelmed with the support for this initiative…parents and grandparents of sixth grade boys, community members, business owners, local churches, educators,” said Lindsay Peaster.
The Peasters have adopted the tenants of the KA$H program, a system-wide initiative that stands for Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, and Habits, to incorporate into M-Powered. Ultimately, the vision is to serve as a support system for these boys as they grow up into men.
“This age is hard, plain and simple,” said Lindsay. “It’s a time that reputations start to be formed, a time when self-image and self-esteem may be challenged, friendships dissolve, and new ones are formed.”
According to the Peasters, after observing the beneficial impact of positive leadership qualities on students, they wanted to be more involved in positively shaping the lives of boys in the community.
“This past spring, we started feeling led to do something, but for months, we didn’t know what that something was,” said Lindsay. “ One morning this summer, after our country seemed to be torn apart with the news of shootings, and racial tension and hate were being spewed all across social media and on the news, we both just knew it was time.”
“One of our hopes is that we can help build relationships not only across races, but interest levels as well. These boys are not all going to be best friends, but if they can learn to respect and appreciate each other, for the similarities as well as the differences, if they can learn that lesson now, it could impact them forever,” explained Lindsay.
The Peasters, originally from Macon County, were high school sweethearts before marrying 15 years ago. Todd is a partner at Georgia Civil and Lindsay teaches at Morgan County Primary School with a P.H.D. in Special Education. The Peasters have enlisted their extended family to help with M-Powered. The couple has two boys, Harrison, 11, and Grant, 7.
As the Peasters seek to foster healthy relationships among the boys and instill an appreciation for diversity, they also set up activities to help the boys succeed in the future. Bob Mackey, of The Power of the Knot, came two weeks ago and taught the boys how to tie a tie and how to give a formal and informal handshake.
“It was really amazing to watch them stand up a little straighter and prouder when those ties were tied and they were posing for a group picture,” said Lindsay. “These young men are our future; they will be our leaders in a few short years, and they need to be empowered. We want them to walk away from this believing that they are beloved and adored, that they are wonderfully made, that they need each other, and that there are many more similarities than differences. As Demarius Brinkley, a Morgan County High School graduate and current senior class president at Morehouse College, told the boys, we want them to find power and conversation, not division, in their diversity.”
Each week features a special speaker that talks to the boys while they share a meal. The Peasters are planning some special activities in coming weeks, including a tailgate party for the Morgan County Middle School football game on Sept. 7. The Painted Pineapple is coordinating an art project for the boys that will be announced in a few weeks, too.
“We want them to know that there are adults in this community who think they are amazing and inspiring. More than anything, we want them to hear, believe, and internalize that they’re worth it,” said Lindsay. “The support from these boys’ families and the community has been overwhelming. They make it possible.”