Men cheer on students returning to class after winter break

Students being greeted on their way to class Thursday morning. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Students being greeted on their way to class Thursday morning. (Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A group of men braved the cold Thursday to cheer on some Memphis students who were headed back to school.

Students at Freedom Preparatory Academy Elementary off Millbranch Road in Memphis walked to class as members of the Men's Morning Hug cheered them on and gave them high fives.

"It's much needed, and we just got it started," said Devonte Payton, co-organizer of the Men's Morning Hug initiative.

Payton said it's the second year for the effort. He got the idea from a friend in Indianapolis. Volunteers go to a different Memphis school each month. Some are fathers, and some aren't.

"None of the men today have any kids at this school," Payton said.

"The main thing is motivating children to come to school every morning," Dejuan Hendricks said.

The group focuses on times when students might need to be pumped up, like Thursday when they're back from a long winter break. The group has also held events before big tests.

But the hello is more than a greeting. The group said they want to be encouragers.

"We just want to show the kids that there are men in the community, people in the community that support them and want to see them do well," Payton said.

"It's really essential that all of our children, especially our black and brown boys see role models in their communities," said Ayanna Gray, Head of School at Freedom Prep.

It is a hello that comes from the heart.

"We love the kids," Hendricks said.

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