They went from football practice uniforms to business suits in less than an hour at their graduation Thursday night.
Thanks to an eight-week crash course on life, William T. Dwyer High School football players have the tools they need to manage their money as well as they can run plays. Palm Beach Gardens financial adviser Telby Turner taught the team about financial literacy as part of the Suits for Seniors program.
The 33 seniors got their reward at graduation Thursday night: sharp, black suits tailored perfectly for them.
One by one as their names were called, they took the stage to receive their jackets. Their teammates cheered. They grinned broadly, taking selfies with friends as they gathered at the end of the stage wearing their new suits.
There were plenty of cameras snapping in the audience, too. Quinette Lawery was a proud grandma to Earnest Philmore, who came home from the class telling his mom about credit cards.
“It was a good experience. It makes me feel different as a man growing up in the world,” Philmore, of Riviera Beach, said.
His mom, Natalie B. Jakes, said it was rewarding to know someone was investing in her son and his friends. Plus, being a senior with scholarship interviews and graduation coming soon, a suit is a much-needed addition to his wardrobe, she said.
Jervonte Edmonds, a 25-year-old legislative aide to state Sen.-elect Bobby Powell Jr., founded Suits for Seniors to give young men in high school both the mentoring and the wardrobe they need to be successful. Dwyer is one of several schools in the county to participate.
Powell, currently a Democratic state representative, was the keynote speaker at Thursday’s graduation, at which Turner, Dwyer football coach Jack Daniels, Palm Beach Gardens Police Sgt. Dorian Hawkins and college readiness consultant Marlyn Paris-Lawson also offered encouragement to the teens.
Hawkins gave each of them a pin bearing the words “reaching for success” to encourage them to not look back at past failures but forward to future successes.
Powell said even though he has a nice suit, master’s degree and a litany of accomplishments, there were times when he felt inadequate, vulnerable even. Then he asked the young men how they feel when they put on a suit.
“Like a grown man.”
Wearing nice clothes changes other people’s perception, but the real change starts within and grows to the outside, he said. He ended by reciting the poem, “The Man in the Glass,” by Dale Wimbrow.