NEWPORT NEWS - A Newport News teacher is getting high praise for his program to help at-risk teens.
James Graves, a technology teacher and coach at Warwick High School, received the
He's written letters to the president and famous philanthropists as he tries to re-establish his decade-old mentoring program, called Operation Think Smart, in Hampton and Newport News.
"There's 3,000 dropouts, kids, just in Newport News alone. We want to get them together, we want to get all those kids back in school," Graves explains.
He's doing it with the help of Hampton University students, who are mentioning the troubled kids.
"With this program, it shows them there's a different way to go, there's a different path, you can go the path less traveled and make more of yourself," HU student Brandon Griffin states.
Teens in the program say it's making a difference.
"I feel good about it because I see that somebody cares. They want to see me make something out of my life," says Equontae Clark, who's in high school.
Weslee Hall says Graves inspires him.
"He's the best teacher ever. He's like more than a teacher to me," the high school sophomore adds.
Graves says he's humbled by the recognition and it's strengthened his motivation to fight for his program.
"We are warriors. All we need is somebody to fund the warriors and go out there and make a difference so that's what we have to do," he states.
Graves estimates the youth academy will cost $ 20 million and would have the added benefit of creating jobs.
"My dream is to have a youth academy where we have kids who are habitual suspension, parents can't control them attitude-wise, they just don't want to do anything, we gotta get those young kids in and get them going in the right direction."
If you want to get involved, contact James Graves with Operation Think Smart by calling 757-289-0759.