Looking for mentors

Bernard Hicks Sr., right, commander of the Flossie B. McLendon Memorial Drill Team and Majorette Troop, leads some of the members on a training march. They are, from front, Keyosha Dunbar, Devonte Foster, Joshua Dunbar, Tyrone Thomas and Elijah Philman.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardia
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 7:08 p.m.

A youth drill team started more than 50 years ago is still going strong, but organizers say they are in dire need of more mentors for members.

"We are definitely looking for male and female volunteers," said Henry Quarterman, who, along with his wife, Marva, partner with Bernard Hicks as leaders of the Flossie B. McLendon Memorial Drill Team and Majorette Troop. "More than money or anything else, we need more people to volunteer to help us with the children."

Quarterman, who served in the U.S. Navy, said the young people learn discipline, teamwork and the importance of having good manners.

"We need to teach our boys about positive things," he said. "We need to impact the kids more to have a greater influence on their lives to prevent them from getting involved in the criminal justice system."

Members of the drill team will be busy this weekend. They will march in the University of Florida Homecoming Parade at noon on Friday before heading to Tallahassee, where they will march in the Florida A&M University Homecoming Parade on Saturday morning.

Hicks, 60, said he reorganized the drill team in 2000 because he felt he could provide the same lessons in discipline to children today that founder McLendon provided to children when she started the group in 1953. The drill team ceased to exist when McLendon died in 1983, Hicks said.

Hicks returned to Gainesville in 1995 after living in North Carolina and was distraught when he attended the UF Homecoming Parade that year and learned that the drill team had disbanded.

The drill team is featured each year in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Jacksonville, and the group has won the Florida Community Drill Team Association's competition for three straight years.

Currently, the drill team practices from 5:30-6:30 p.m. every Monday-Thursday at Star Christian Academy at 1930 NE Waldo Road.

"I joined the drill team in 1957, and stayed in it from fourth- through sixth-grade," said Hicks, a 1965 graduate of all-black Lincoln High School. "When I went to high school, I still couldn't disconnect myself from the drill team."

"Parent involvement is very scarce and weak," Hicks said, adding that he doesn't know why. "Parents need to step up a little more when it comes to organizations that want to deal with their children on a discipline level."

Helen Battis, the grandmother of drill team members Keyosha and Joshua Dunbar, said she hopes they learn from the experience. "I hope they learn about respect and manners and how to get along with one another," Battis said, as the drill team practiced recently. "There are so many boys who don't have respect and don't know what it is to be a gentleman."

For more information, call Hicks at (352) 376-9656.

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