By MC2 

Mark Andrew Hays
NPASE Detachment Southeast

Naval Station Mayport (NAVSTA) hosted police officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO) and students from the Duval County public school district to tour the base as part of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project July 27.

JSO is partnered with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project which aims to teach young men of color from grades 6-12 about healthy living, responsibility, respect, and how to attain future goals. 

The program is currently implemented at ten schools in Duval County and allows students identified as at-risk by school administrators to participate in various cultural and educational experiences.

 "We have 360 young men who are part of this project," said Larry Roziers, assistant superintendent of Duval County public schools. "Our goal is that when these kids graduate and turn their tassel, they are prepared for their future, whether it's joining the military or going to college they will have the knowledge needed to succeed." 

Students toured Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 48 (HSM 48) where they got up close and personal with an MH-60R Sea Hawk, tried on flight gear and spoke to air crewman about life in the Navy.

"Before joining the Navy I had to overcome some hardships," said Naval Air Crewman 3rd Class Ken McElwee, from HSM 48. "I wanted these teens to know that no matter what they're going through they can achieve their goals, and the military can give them this opportunity as it did for me."

Following the tour, students went to the Oasis dining facility where they were treated to lunch and some words of advice from U.S Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet Command Master Chief Herbert Ellis.

Ellis told the teens that the road to success is always under construction. He said when he was a teenager his father was a drug dealer and wanted him to be a drug dealer as well. Luckily, his mother raised him to be smart and make good decisions.

 "It was an honor to speak to these kids today," said Ellis. "I wanted them to know that it doesn't matter what your background is, life is about decisions. If they get an education and choose a wise career path, there are no reasons why they can't succeed."

Fifty police officers from JSO have volunteered to mentor students from the 5000 Role Model Project since its inception in August 2015. 

Part of the mentoring JSO officers have provided is professional development, summer jobs, and tours of colleges and military bases.

"I've been a police officer for 30 years and have seen many programs like this one," said Tony Davis, JSO director of police services and mentor. "This is one of the best programs I have been exposed to in my career. I believe in these young men, and I will support them to the end."