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Raising good kids: It’s all about character

May 03, 2018

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It all started when Roosevelt Cone Jr. sat down at his kitchen table and sketched out a hand.

Cone had owned The Spot previously, which was a place where local children could come and hang out and play video games. He had also worked in the Boys & Girls Club of Bulloch County, and had seen the difference such programs could make in the lives of underserved youth.

But Cone wanted to do something a bit more meaningful, and focus his efforts on teaching youth about character.

And with that, Roosevelt’s Character Development Center was born. Kids who come to the center learn about responsibility and engage in character building lessons, which Cone designs himself. Everything they do at the RCDC is infused with the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, citizenship, caring and fairness.

“We try to implement that in everything we do around here,” Cone said.

The lessons the children learn at the RCDC are incredibly important, Cone believes.

“It’s so important, I don’t even know if I can even put a range on it,” he said. “I think we all know that the kids today, they all need positive role models. To me, looking around every day, we’re failing with that. I think places like this, and the lessons we come up with, at least if they’re not getting the time and guidance they should be getting at the house, at least they’re getting it here. Every little bit counts.”

The RCDC has been operational for around two years, Cone said. His wife, Shelby, is the co-owner and co-founder of the center. Both have a love for children and seek to be positive role models not just at the center, but in their everyday lives as well.

“I always look at it like you can’t run a character program if you’re out doing whatever,” Cone said. “With me having this program, I’m always able to put myself in check a lot quicker than other people because of what I’m representing. So (the program has) had an impact on me.”

He says it’s also impacted his son, Braylon, as well as his wife.

“You can’t impact other kids if you’re not impacting your own. My wife, she gets attached to the kids, and has been impacted by the program as well,” he says. “It’s been positive (for us) all the way around.”

Cone is a 2001 graduate of Southeast Bulloch High School and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and his master’s degree in Psychology from Ashford University. He says he’s always known that he wanted to work with children, even back when he was a kid, growing up in Brooklet, hanging out with the children that his mother cared for.

As he grew older, Cone decided he wanted to be a physical education teacher and coach, and that soon morphed into wanting to be an art teacher. No matter what career path he considered, the focus was always working with children.

Eventually, he determined that he wanted to develop his own program. He has now worked for a total of 16 years with local children, and he sees every day the impact of his efforts. He says he is approached all the time around town by young people who come up and hug him, and shake his hand, and tell him thank you for what he’s done for them.

“If those kids can always remember Mr. Roosevelt, and say he was always positive, he always pushed me, if they can all remember that. I want them to always remember me for pushing them and instilling good values in them,” he said.

Parents of the kids who come after school Monday through Friday pay $180 a month. For that fee, the children are picked up after school, they are supervised while they do homework, they get snacks, and they engage in character lessons, in addition to play time.

Cone also focuses on mentoring, which includes helping the children learn how to deal with bullying, and building their self-esteem. He’s also established a one-on-one program called All My Sons, which is for boys ages 10 to 18 who currently don’t have a father figure in their lives. Each week, these young men meet at the center to discuss the issues they face and to learn life skills such as becoming a man, the importance of being a good father, the importance of education, how to show respect, how to treat women with respect and more.

Cone says the fathers of most of these young men are not around, so he may be the only positive role model they have.

“That’s basically what I came up with this program for. The things that fathers should be around to talk about with their sons, those kids that don’t have their fathers around, they’re going to miss out. So with that program, that’s what I try to do,” he said.

Kids at the RCDC range from kindergarten through 12th grade. In addition to what they do at the center, they also have enjoyed summer camps, visits to local businesses in the community, and caring for the animals at the Pony Farm.

During the time since the doors opened at the RCDC, Cone says he’s seen a lot of changes in the kids who have been coming. But don’t call it a daycare center.

“I always tell the parents this is not a daycare center. It’s a character building center. We’re always firm on the kids,” he said, adding that this shows in their behavior over time.

“All they need is time,” Cone says. He posts the mantra regularly on the RCDC Facebook page. Cone says there are good parents who don’t take the time to guide their children, and there are bad parents who won’t take the time to guide their children.

 “Whether it’s taking 10 minutes to read them a bedtime story, or fixing a meal and using that time to communicate as a family. Time is very important, not only with kids, but with adults too. All they need is time,” he said.

Cone says he was very fortunate to have both of his parents, Roosevelt Sr. and Janice, who invested in him and taught him great life lessons. He credits them with helping him to become the man that he is today.

“They instilled great values in us,” Cone said, speaking of himself and his older sister, Pam. “When we came home from school, we had chores to do. It all has to do with the environment you’re in. Ever since I was young, it was always about working for the things that you want.”

Cone Sr. retired about five years ago from Denmark Furniture Mart in Brooklet, and the father/son duo made their unofficial business “official”— their moving service had been something they had done together for quite a while. After his dad retired, Cone says they merged his dad’s old school thinking and his new school thinking, establishing Rosie & Son Moving Service.  They must be doing something right, because the company has consistently been chosen by the community as the Best of the Boro for the past few years.

Cone says he helped his dad with his first move when he was just 12 years old. After his dad asked him to help, he asked his father, “What if I can’t do it? What if I can’t lift?”

His father replied, “What if you can?”

Cone carries that with him every day as he mentors boys and girls, helping them to understand that just as he found out he could do anything he set his mind to, so can they.

“It makes me feel good that I’ve made that mark around here,” he said.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Roosevelt’s Character Development Center, see their Facebook page, or call (912) 486-4713. The center is located at 220C North Main Street in Statesboro.


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