How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I was born and raised in Brooksville. Other than the six-year tour I had with the Army, I've been here all my life.
Who are the members of your family?
My wife, Jacqueline, and I have three children. Our daughter Amanda is studying elementary education at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. Our daughter Clarissa, who is a 2009 graduate of Hernando High School, is set to begin at Central Florida Community College in Ocala, where she will be studying to be a licensed practical nurse. Our son, Clarence Clark Jr., is a sophomore at Hernando High School.
Tell us about your career.
After the military, I returned to Brooksville and spent about four years working at Florida Crushed Stone. I then decided I might want to follow in my father's footsteps, so I went to Hillsborough Community College, where I completed the criminal justice program and became a corrections officer.
I spent four years as a corrections officer at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution and then moved to the Brooksville Drug Treatment Center.
At some point I realized I was spending my energy on the wrong side, while trying to help people. What I mean by that is, I wanted to help kids by getting them motivated before they get into trouble, instead of after.
I knew that if I could reach kids before they got into high school, I could motivate them to be more productive, and therefore avoid the pitfalls.
Currently, I am in full-time minister with Shiloh New Beginnings Pillar of Truth Ministries. We are currently developing our outreach ministry, which is a mentoring program through Shiloh Problem Solvers.
Our vision is: "Raising children, developing sons and deploying fathers." Our mission statement is: "Hear the needs of our youth, and position ourselves to be a part of the solution." Our main objective is to "spark the brain of the child who will change the world".
Working with Parrott Middle School, we started the Parrott Alternative to Suspension program. Students who might be suspended from school, instead come to our program and we give them classwork in addition to our program, which offers character building, self-esteem building and concrete resolution. If a student is suspended, they fall behind. Through the program, they continue with their studies and don't fail. Yvette Hart is our para-professional teacher who provides the classroom studies part.
Though this was our first year at Parrott, we have already made a difference.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
Community building is one of my focuses. I want to get our community involved and revitalize it, create an atmosphere at our local parks that encourages the community to come together — build up our community relationships. Through Shiloh Problem Solvers, we partner and network with Head Start, All-Pro Dads and Hernando County Parks and Recreation.
We also offer activities for men, such as Strengthening Fathers and our One Man Rally. We bring older and younger men together, so the older men can mentor the younger men. Our philosophy is, if we want a strong man, we must first develop a stronger child.
Through Shiloh Problem Solvers, we do a drug prevention program, partnering with the Hernando County Anti-Drug Coalition. We also do domestic violence prevention, which is sponsored by the Dawn Center.
We want to position Shiloh Problem Solvers to be a full-fledged community center. We are an access point for Career Central, (U.S.) Department of Veterans Affairs and the (state) Department of Children and Families — a place where you can get help with finding a job, food stamp assistance, as well as other assistance.
I also volunteer and coach middle school football at Parrott.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I love to fish. My dad lives in Dunnellon, and he and I enjoy going fishing. I love it so much I have been trying to get the men around here interested. Encourage the older men to "adopt" a young man and take him fishing.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
I also like going out and watching all the youth league sports. I love seeing the kids having good, clean fun. I also have to say that I enjoy all our local restaurants, too.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
First, remove our dividing line between the south and north side of Brooksville.
When we say the south side is bad, or the north side is better, we're telling those looking in that Hernando County is bad. Those looking in don't see the dividing line, they just hear bad.
I want to challenge people to understand that we need to remove that dividing line and come together as a whole — Hernando County.
Second, pool our resources. If someone is good at this or that, we need to humble ourselves to recognize their talents and utilize them. Find out what gifts people have to offer, recognize their talents and place them in positions where they can do the most good and make a difference.
There is also a need for a community teen center with a pool. There is little to nothing for our youth to do in Hernando County. We sit and wonder why our teen crime rate is high. If we as leaders of the community do not invest in a teen center and pool now, we will surely pay the price in the future. There is a old saying: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." If we would open our eyes, we would see this is what's happening to our youth.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
Most folks know everything about me that there is to know. I'm pretty transparent. I don't hide my past.
Everybody here knows that I wasn't always the person I am today. I had my troubles. But it was positive people around me that kept saying, "You are more than what you are producing." They helped turn me around and point me in the right direction.
We need to see the positive in people and reinforce it. And that's what I'm trying to do here.
Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at email@example.com or (352) 848-1438.