Shortly after publishing my March column on the six young men involved in shooting into a house full of people in February, killing one, I received an email from Lamar Sykes, formerly of Youngstown.
Sykes has a financial-analyst position with the defense finance and accounting service, a Department of Defense agency in Cleveland.
He read the column and suggested I write about him and five of his friends who grew up on the mean streets of Youngstown. He thought their lives would be a positive contrast to the men charged in the shooting.
They chose to pursue lives devoted to education, hard work and trying to make themselves better.
The six — Sykes, Michael Gibson, Wilson Okello, Clarence Howell, Carrington Moore and Thomas Toney — grew up on the South Side. Howell has stayed in town; the other five have moved away for job reasons or to seek additional education.
They are all 24, single and have no children.
They attribute their success in no small part to their parents’ guidance, their longtime friendship and their faith in God.
Youngstown was a great proving ground for them. They have fond memories of the city, but they also saw many of their friends succumb to the city’s negative image and make bad choices.
They remain close and, says Sykes, their long-range goal is “formulating ideas in which we can collaborate on how to help the area’s youth overcome some of the obstacles they may face. Our intentions are to establish a nonprofit organization in the area.”