TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A local teenager's role is changing from being someone who is impacted to someone who is impacting others as a mentor and a leader in the community.
Ava Van Valen spoke to McKinley Wilson ahead of his transition out of the Omega Lamplighters of the Big Bend Area and into college and his adult life.
The Rickards High School senior serves as president of the Omega Lamplighters, a young men's mentoring program. They are having their annual Scholarship Gala next weekend to celebrate the success of Lamplighters like McKinley.
The principles of leadership, academics, maturity and perseverance. Those are the focus of the Omega Lamplighters Mentoring Program, principles which McKinley Wilson personifies.
"A lot of kids at his age aren't as exceptional and caring as he is and understanding that life is bigger than just him," said Royle King, Executive Director/ Founder of Omega Lamplighters Mentoring Program. "And he gets that - that regardless of the opportunities and advantages he's had if he's not using them to help someone else, then he's wasting them."
But McKinley remembers when he started in the Lamplighters at 16 when he was in need of mentoring.
"At 16-years-old I wasn't the most focused student or teen and the Omega Lamplighters was an opportunity for me to rededicate myself to education and my future," said McKinley.
The Omega Lamplighters Scholarship Gala is Saturday, June 8. It's a special time for McKinley, a culmination of his years as a Lamplighter and the end of his high school career.
Because of his commitment to helping others and leadership, McKinley was nominated President of the Lamplighters. His mother says McKinley always pays it forward.
"I am really proud of all of his accomplishments, what he's done academically and what he's been able to do leadership wise," said Gina Wilson, McKinley's mother.
McKinley will be going to Florida A&M University and majoring in business administration. He says he wants to be an advocate for the people and help others.
"I am proud to be a person in the community that people look up to, I'm proud to be a son my mother can smile and say she's proud of, I'm happy to be a leader among my peers and at my school, so to say I'm proud of myself is an understatement," said McKinley.
King says that the biggest thing the kids get from being a Lamplighter is a sense of family and a village that allows them to blossom.