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Inspiring Pahokee: Fathers are still out there

Posted 7/4/22

“Don’t let social media fool you, fathers are still out here,” said Ja’Quan Bentley Sr.

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Inspiring Pahokee: Fathers are still out there

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PAHOKEE — “Don’t let social media fool you, fathers are still out here,” said Ja’Quan Bentley Sr.

An Okeechobee resident, Bentley takes his job as father and role model seriously by being there for his wife and children every day, by playing with them, eating with them, tucking them in to bed and by working alongside them.

Bentley and his wife believe it is important to install a strong work ethic in their three boys. They want them to learn right from wrong and how to make hard decisions.

Not only does Bentley try to be this role model for his own children, but he fulfills a similar role at work. At the age of 21, he began working at the Okeechobee Youth Correctional Facility and stayed there for about five years before moving to Career Source in Saint Lucie County. “I started mentoring there on the workforce side of things,” he explained.

Hired as a career coach for the YouthBuild program, he works with young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who have either dropped out of school or need assistance finding employment or have been incarcerated, whatever the barriers might be. “It’s my job to help alleviate those barriers.”

Though he started out with Career Source, he later moved to Indian River State college where he oversees the entire program. This particular program is for Saint Lucie County, but Bentley has partnered with people he has met within the network and is working toward mentoring kids who are still in school.

“I created a pilot program to assist kids in finding what they want to do in life.” The program is for kids approximately 16 to 18 years old and will include Okeechobee. Right now, there are two young men from Pahokee, Bentley’s hometown, participating. As his funding increases, he plans to take on more and more participants. The young men are taught financial literacy, resume building, finding out what they are good at, what skills they have, etc. They also do fun things like going fishing or tying a tie practicing to get a driver’s license, things to help them become young men, said Bentley. “A lot of them are lacking a father figure in their life.” He said this program is trying to get to the youths before they get to the point of dropping out. “I want to get in before that happens and help them through things going on.”

Bentley is also a coach for travel football. “Most of my mentoring starts there with the young ones,” he said.

“My job is eight to five, but after that is the time I help the kids.  If I’m off of work and you are out of school, we can go fishing or do something cool. I try to instill in them all the things I've learned so later they can pass it on to their kids.”

fathers, men, role model

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