Camelot Leader’s Job is Never Done
They call themselves the Lamplighters, 30 Pensacola students in 6th – 12th grades being mentored by a staff of five adults, led by Camelot Academy of Escambia executive director Andrew Maxwell.
“We take young men, show them the walks of life, do college tours, buy them a suit, teach them how to interview, and provide tutoring for the ACT test. We go on trips out of town to museums. When they leave our program they have accumulated a lot of exposure and at least a $3,000 scholarship,” Maxwell says.
Most of the Lamplighters are very active in their school or community. All of them are involved with high school sports. Some are offered football, basketball and even band scholarships. One member of the program was even recently ordained as a minister.
This is an elite program, receiving 200-300 applications every year. But even elite kids benefit from mentoring. Maxwell brings the same devotion to this program that he does every day with his Camelot kids.
“I truly believe it takes a village to raise a kid,” says Maxwell. “They need to see and feel and hear about different stories, get different life experiences. I think that’s the only way they’re going to be successful. Some of these kids are in 10th and 11th grade and already know they want to be an engineer or an entrepreneur.”
The group is a community organization, a branch of Maxwell’s fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. They meet every Sunday.
All funding for the program comes through fundraisers and sponsorships. The group performs a big step show every year and if a member is in the show and sells a certain amount of tickets and/or programs that money goes to their scholarship. Every student has a fund or account while they’re in Lamplighters. Any money they raise from the annual banquet or a car wash or selling things all goes back to the student before they head off to college.
Another major component of the program is a monthly forum. Lawyers, doctors and business owners are among those who come and speak at these events. During a forum, students dress up in shirt and tie and go through mock interviews.
“It’s kind of that next step, a kid moving on to the next level. We take a good kid and make him great,” Maxwell says.
How does he find the time? “When it’s part of your lifestyle it’s not work. When I’m at work I’m with kids and it’s now just a part of me because I do it so much.”
The chapter that launched in Pensacola in 2015 had one member come from Camelot Academy, Tyrone McMillen. “He’s one of the most successful Lamplighters, an honors student now at Westmoreland, one of the top high schools in the city,” Maxwell says. “Some people say we saved his life. It’s those kinds of stories that motivate me.”