• Family Focus: Middle-schoolers say program is changing their lives

    By: Natalie Pasquarella


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some Charlotte middle-schoolers say a new program is changing their lives for the better.

    TJ Lockley, a seventh-grader who's full of life, has a message for other teens.

    “Stay in school!” he said.

    He didn't always feel that way. Last year, he said he wasn't interested in school and was on the verge of failing at Bradley Middle, until he joined Straight Talk.

    “Helped me with my studying habits, helped me with my grades, and my behavior towards my parents, teachers and every grownup, basically,” TJ said.

    Straight Talk is a mentoring program that started in January. Forty-nine middle school boys meet every Tuesday for two hours after school to learn about keeping good grades, being a good citizen and staying out of trouble.

    “We want to see the kids successful,” said Gilbert Parker, one of the organizers.

    He said the idea behind the mentoring program is to provide a group setting that involves the students' parents, teachers and school counselors.

    “Anybody in the community that may have an impact with these children, it's important that we all come together, as we say, as a village, to identify these needs to raise these boys,” Parker said.

    During our visit, former inmates spoke to the room full of teens.

    TJ said the mentors in the program have given him hope.

    “They help you because they been through it, they know what you're going through,” he said.

    And because of Straight Talk, TJ said he passed all of his EOGs and he's now enrolled in honors classes.

    They’re all accomplishments Parker is proud of.

    “Now TJ is very eager, he is very willing, probably one of the best students in the Straight Talk program right now,” he said.

    Right now, there are 49 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students involved in the Straight Talk program. The goal is 100.

    If you’re interested in volunteering with Straight Talk, click here.

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