Despite Challenges of Diabetes, Most Valuable Father Antwayne Leland, Stands as a Role Model at Son's School
Connection is Indeed Possible With Your Own Father Later in Life
By: Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida
Born in Miami, Leland was raised by his grandmother and great grandmother since his mother worked 2 or 3 jobs. They were all strong, intelligent, independent and powerful women who took on the burden of raising their family and taught him to respect women. His father was not involved in his early life and he had an uncle as a male role model. In a community riddled by drugs, his uncle guided him by spending time and showing him what situations to avoid. "When I was 11, my uncle was killed in Alabama on the same day that there was a celebration for Martin Luther King. I did not cry. At 11 there is so much you don't understand. I saw strong-minded women in my family carry the torch and lead the family. I learned to handle grief for my family, too," recalled Leland.
In his senior year of high school, Leland got very sick and was diagnosed with diabetes. He faced poverty early in his life and couldn't afford basic things. "It taught me that in struggle there is strength, since I also deal with being a bi-lateral amputee, having lost two legs due to diabetic complications in a short period of time. Learning to live with my disability encouraged me to show my son unconditional love and stay active in his life."
Leland believes that being a father means to take care of the child he is helping to raise and be a strong family support. He and his five year old read books, go to the park, and play video games and he encourages his son to ask questions. He shows him what it means to be not just a man but a gentleman; have self control; have respect toward women; and be a warrior.
Continuing, Leland stated, "I volunteer at my child's school because I know the students need a male role model to guide them. Knowing what it's like to not have a father in your early life and not understand why is a question many children have. In between going to dialysis, I volunteer daily at my child's school. I talk to children who are having difficulties behaving and encourage them to get back on track. Volunteering at the front desk gives me the opportunity to meet other fathers and to encourage them to get involved in the school. Fathers who live apart should try to stay involved cause their children don't understand why they are not present and they hurt inside."
Regarding reconnecting with his own father, Leland recalled "I never resented my father and always believed that one day I would be special in his life and we would make a connection. I believed that one day, just maybe, my father would become a father." That day did come. Their apartment complexes joined to have a luncheon and Leland's father heard him lead a prayer during the meal. That prayer struck a chord, allowing his father to see the man Leland had become. Since then, they have talked, argued, agreed to disagree and remain involved. They don't dwell on the past and now look for ways to continue connecting.
Today, Leland knows that he is doing the right thing when he sees how excited the students are to see him. He likes being a part of the father network of the Fatherhood Reading Squad at his child's school, Nathan B. Young Elementary in Opa-Locka, Florida, where his mother works, as well. He wants to help guide his own son's and the children's future, and uses reading to teach life lessons. He tells them that they can be whatever they want to be…a lawyer, a doctor or even a president!
About the Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida (www.ftfsf.org):
An advocacy organization with national influence, the Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida's mission is to facilitate the involvement of Fathers in children's lives by developing and promoting programs for fathers, grandfathers, uncles and male mentors/role models related to all stages of parenthood. Their Fatherhood Reading Squad Program trains and prepares Fathers from all walks of life to go into classrooms to read, tell stories and mentor students Pre-K- 3rd grades.
The criteria for the Most Valuable Father Award are for fathers and male role models to be an influence for positive values by guiding and supporting them physically, socially and emotionally. Additional qualities are being engaged in their children's lives and supporting, nurturing, and interacting in their education and activities.
The Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida is celebrating its 8th Anniversary!
Holly Zwerling, LMFT, LCSW, President & CEO
Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida
Page Updated Last on: Jan 05, 2018