JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - One Region 8 organization had a small reunion Tuesday to celebrate a group of young men's success.
The AAMEN organization stands for At-Risk American Male Educational Network. The organization's mission is to develop character, discover potential, and inspire world vision in marginalized young men ages fifteen to eighteen.
Five of the recent alumni gathered at Cheddars Tuesday to catch up. They all started the program together in 9th grade, and said at that age education wasn't even on their mind.
"At first, I wasn't focused on school," Romecio Watson, AAMEN alumni, said. "I was just a sports player, but when he came along he gave me the idea, you know, you should probably really focus on your grades because your grades can take you a long way."
"The biggest aspiration I had was to play football, but I wasn't really focused on the education part, but being with them made me focus on my ACT scores," Malik Rowland, AAMEN alumni, said.
The last four years they've been together, preparing for the future.
"College visits, we took the ACT, the practice ACT, anything that prepares us to do well in college," Reggie Watson, AAMEN alumni, said.
Each alumni just finished their first semester of college. They said while it was difficult overcoming some of the challenges of college, this program helped prepare them for it.
The men said this program has brought them much more than just educational prep.
"It kept me on a straight path, kept me motivated," Rowland said. "Kept me going towards my goals for high school and after high school."
Rennell Woods, Executive Director of AAMEN, said it's been amazing to see the young men grow.
"These guys are from young boys to men," Woods said. "So it's great to see them mature and understand what we've been trying to talk to them about."
While they may be at different colleges now, these men said one of the best things that AAMEN gave them is a brotherhood.
"If you don't surround yourself with the right group, then you get off on the wrong path and head towards the wrong thing," Rowland said. "But if you surround yourself with people that wants the same thing as you, it keeps you motivated and on a straight path."
The group said they are so thankful for the organization because they wouldn't be where they are today without it.
Woods said a new class of 9th graders is starting the program, and he hopes they will be as successful as this class of alums.