Boot camp makes men of deadbeat dads

Class No. 89 graduate Nathaniel Lewis can attest to the benefits of a change in priorities.

Lewis — a 41-year-old former Marine Corps infantryman who served in the first Gulf War — left the service in the early 1990s and joined the drug trade. He wound up in federal prison for four years on conspiracy charges to traffic cocaine but recently got out and headed straight into the program.

He says his perception of manhood changed while in prison, and that change accelerated during FSC's boot camp.

Fathers’ Support Center staff: Founder Halbert Sullivan, managing director Cheri Tillis, and facilitators Sister Carol Schumer and Charles Barnes Jr.
Jennifer Silverberg
Fathers’ Support Center staff: Founder Halbert Sullivan, managing director Cheri Tillis, and facilitators Sister Carol Schumer and Charles Barnes Jr.
Nathaniel Lewis of class No. 89 addresses his fellow FSC graduates on May 31.
Alexis Hitt
Nathaniel Lewis of class No. 89 addresses his fellow FSC graduates on May 31.

When he was slinging drugs on the street, he says, he adhered to "the code," which meant: "Getting it any way you can; buying stuff we don't really need to impress people we don't even like; the more women you have validates your manhood; it doesn't matter what you do to the next man as long as you get yours. Man, that's bullcrap."

Especially harmful, he believes, is the notion among ex-cons that "it's cool that our kids do what we did because we did it. I've seen plenty of fathers and sons hanging out in prison. That's one thing in the program I really learned: You have to have courage to stand up and break the cycle."

The FSC's Halbert Sullivan, it appears, has taught him well.

Lewis continues: "A lot of times in society, and especially with our people, we have a lack of courage as men, and what we think is manhood and strength is really false," he says. "We have to have some courage to stand up and do the right thing. They say a lot of negative things about us, but I know we can win. It's just gonna take some hard work."

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