Highlighted as a “development program for young men ages 7 to 12”, the Beta Lambda Educational Institute, an affiliate of the Kansas City Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., recently hosted the 4th Annual “A Debonair Affair” at the Embassy Suites-KCI Conference Center Hotel in Kansas City.

“The whole objective is to actually mentor these boys and give them an experience they would not have had,” said Charles E. Lambert, chairman, A Debonair Affair.

The 13-week program includes mentoring, educational workshops, public speaking activities, dance, arts and community service. This year, the program got underway on Aug. 13, and included an essay and oratorical contest as well as a talent showcase. The program culminated with the “A Debonair Affair Grand Finale” on Nov. 18.

“What these children gain is an opportunity to learn some life skills; “training in nine different areas, exposure to a world they may not otherwise experience,” commented Janice Lambert, coordinator.

Jabari Cambridge, Jr. won the Mr. Debonair 2017 and Mr. CFO awards at the grand finale. Jabari is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jabari Cambridge Sr. and the grandson of Mr. James D. McConnell, Sr. and Dr. Mary E. McConnell.

Nine boys participated in this year’s event. In the four years the fraternity has presented the Mr. Debonair Affair more than sixty boys have participated in the program.

This year, the program’s community service component consisted of two projects: “After the Harvest,” a vegetable and fruit food gleaning project for local food pantries and several activities involving Niles Home for Children, including a clothing drive.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate our little boys and bring them along; to do something with our young boys while we still can,” said Janice Lambert.

The various program components are designed to provide a foundation of encouragement, inspiration and practical skills for participants.

“You too can own your own company,” Janice Lambert noted. “You can be whatever you want to be, you just have to put the work in.”

The program also includes a series of mentoring programs utilizing community partners, The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and the men of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. These mentoring programs are intended to expose young men to successful, college educated African-American men and to provide the program participants with role models and a view of positive images to which they can aspire.

The Beta Lambda Educational Institute (BLEI) was created in 1980 to promote the social, educational and cultural welfare of people, particularly those who are or have been traditionally deprived or underprivileged, in the Kansas City area.

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