Lawrence Wade, 17, said it was frustrating to grow up in Detroit with his father missing for much of his life. But he’s not letting it get him down.
“I’m gonna go get mine,” he said today at YouthVille in Detroit’s New Center, where he was fitted for a business suit and given advice on advancing toward his goal of becoming a neurologist.
The daylong, 10th annual Project Pinstripe event offered Wade and dozens of other male high school juniors and seniors from Detroit and nearby areas a boost toward successful careers. They heard from motivational speakers and were coached on interviewing by local attorneys, auto industry professionals and others.
Edmund Lewis, the keynote speaker who founded Minority Males for Higher Education, a mentoring organization in Farmington Hills, said his own story is similar to Wade’s.
“The lack of consistency of a male is critical; it’s sad, too,” Lewis said. “We want to fight, lash out.”
Saturday, he encouraged a room full of young men to believe in themselves and aim for success. Lewis overcame his difficulties growing up in North Carolina and graduated with honors from North Carolina Central University, going on to receive his master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan.
Each participant stood to have his measurements taken by a haberdasher to be fitted with job-interview-worthy suits. The intent is to outfit “young men who want to look good but don’t always have the means to do so” with quality clothing, according to a news release. Participants were recruited from about 15 area schools.
DaRon Burgess, 18, of Harper Woods and a senior at Cousino High School in Warren, learned how to tie a half-Windsor knot and picked up some tips he intends to use on his way toward a career in engineering or mathematics.
“I learned it’s not all about grades on paper,” he said. “It’s about how you present yourself to other people.”
Rob Wachler with the Tom James Co. of Detroit, a suit-fitting service company, has been involved with the Project Pinstripe program since it was started here 10 years ago. The haberdasher said the aim for these men is to “impress the importance of a positive first impression.”
Tom James, a global company with an office in Southfield, provides its suit-fitting services at metro Detroit businesses. Wachler said they take as donations the suits and ties that clients no longer wear, building racks of clothing to offer Project Pinstripe participants. Each participant receives a suit, custom-tailored and cleaned.
AJ Crayton appreciated the help. In his case, he has had strong support from his parents. He’s headed to Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La. this fall. A senior at Western International High School in Detroit, he expects to play football in college, but he intends to be well-prepared in case he doesn’t make the NFL.
Crayton said he’ll study political science and business, returning to his home city to remove blight and develop real estate.
Project Pinstripe grows every year, Wachler said, and it’s offered free with the help of sponsors such as the Detroit AM Rotary Club and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Wade, who now lives in Madison Heights and intends to attend Oakland Community College in the fall, said he realizes the importance of strong role models. Lewis pulled him aside during the event, offering a helping hand.
“It’s always tough,” Wade said. “But you’ve got to persevere.”