Beamon enjoys teaching the basics

Published 10:57 am Friday, December 11, 2015

Walter Beamon stood in front of students in a classroom at Vicksburg High School and asked a simple question, “What’s going on (in the world)?

The students responded with a flurry of news events from the U.S. to nations across the world.

The current events question is how Beamon, who teaches life skills classes at the Vicksburg and Warren Central High Schools for Vicksburg Family Development Services, starts each of his classes.

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“They need to understand what’s going on in the world, not just in Vicksburg, but the whole world,” Beamon said. “I always tell them their world changes and (if) they want to change the world, they’re going to have to apply themselves to do that. That’s my message every day, you can be anything you want to be, but you have to apply yourself, you’re going to have to work.”

A retired Vicksburg police officer, Beamon became involved in speaking to young people after becoming commander of the department’s traffic division. He began an essay contest at Vicksburg High School on what it takes to have a safe prom, and started the department’s street ball program, a summer program that combines basketball with life skills lessons. The program was recently named for longtime officer Randy Naylor.

Beamon’s desire to help young people came from his time as an officer, when he would talk to young people during the course of his work.

“I saw a lot of kids and they really didn’t have a knowledge of what was going on. You’d talk to them, and they didn’t understand things they should know in high school as far as responsibility — what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing. I saw a need.”

When he retired, he joined Central Mississippi Prevention Services as a prevention specialist, working with young people in the schools and summer camps. He later joined Vicksburg Family Development Services, where he’s continued teaching life skills.

“What our young people need is something to get their attention (toward) positive,” he said. “Whoever gets their attention is going to get them, we know that’s what happens, and if the negative things in the street get them, that’s what’s going to happen. We’re trying to get their attention before they get to that point.

“We’re basically teaching the same things our parents taught us. It’s everything they should do every day, basic life skills, things they’re going to need to do to get by in life, like respect and to ask questions about things you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Beamon’s program covers a wide variety of topics — some of them controversial. He has the students take waivers home for their parents to sign.

“We get into issues they need to know, because if I don’t tell them and the parents don’t tell them, someone else is going to tell them and not give them the whole story,” he said. “Someday they will have to make decision, and to make a decision you have to have information. I’m trying to give them the facts so they can make the right decision.

“I know when we start discussing things we’re going to be getting into different areas, and if you stop, you haven’t given the kids what they need, and that’s one of the things I guarantee them. I don’t tell them, ‘I don’t know.’ I tell them, ‘I’ll go find the answer.’”

He said young people need someone to pay attention to what they’re doing and to listen to them.

“I know we always say the young generation now is so this and so that, and they are,” he said. “We allowed those instruments to get their attention — those devices, the cell phones, computers, they’ve got their attention right now. We’ve got to get back to the basics and have that communication. When we were brought up, we talked at least one time a day, and that was at dinner. We all sat down at the table and we talked.

“I tell the students, ‘Before you leave home, give your parents some flowers; tell them that you love them before you leave, because you don’t know what the day will bring or what will happen at the end of the day.’”

He said he enjoys talking and listening to young people, “And that’s what we have to do. Listen to them. We all benefit with getting involved with young people. These are the people who are going to be taking care of us, the next generation. We’re investing in the future when we do that.”

Beamon said he’s able to connect with young people, but will not tolerate a lack of respect for him or for other students in the class. He said he spells out his expectations at the start.

While he enjoys working with young people, he said there are some down times.

“One of the saddest things I see when I’m doing this, I see a student sitting there and I know what’s fixing to happen to them,” he said. “They use these words like ‘I don’t care, you can’t reach me, can’t turn me around.’ That’s kind of sad to see that in a young person, and unfortunately we see that.”

Beamon said working with the young people keeps him motivated, adding “I’m going to keep doing it as long as the Lord gives me the strength to keep going.

“I’m giving back. I’ve truly been blessed in my life, so all I’m doing is give back. He wants me to stand in the gap, so that’s all I’m trying to do, stand in the gap.”



About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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