Midtown Raleigh News

Column: Raleigh kids’ group is all about helping and inspiring others


Through kids’ lenses, any chatter about what children do wrong ought to be replaced with talk about what they do right. And all the kids bullied to believe good grades, smart choices and hard work are un-cool ought to hear a positive spin.

On the scene to model how it’s done is the youth-run Brier Creek-based group By R.E.A.L. Kids.

The membership organization is overseen by a board of five 8- to 13-year-olds inspiring themselves to lead a generation of kids who stand up for their community and others by being R.E.A.L. – Responsible, Enterprising and Active for Life.

“Nowadays, kids think they can just get by, and that’s not going to cut it when they get older,” said John Rooks, whose 12-year-old daughter, Heven, is the organization’s founder and KEO, or Kid Executive Officer. “We’re trying to make a difference in our city and abroad, and we want to recognize and reward kids, at an early age, to help them understand it really is cool to be smart; it really is OK to excel.”

On May 30, in the same modern-day swag as its moniker, the 2015 R.E.A.L. Kids Community Choice Awards will recognize kids ages 7 to 13 for being R.E.A.L.

A location for the 1 p.m. ceremony isn’t set, but nominations are open through April 4 for kids – and parents and teachers, too – from Wake and Durham counties. Winners will be chosen by a panel of four judges.

We, the nominating community, are a fifth judge. We can vote online beginning May 1 at www.byrealkids.com.

“Every one of us should be able to pick a kid in our life that deserves one of these awards. And every kid should know a parent or teacher they can nominate,” Rooks said. “Winning is great, but, like at the Grammy’s, just to be nominated is a great feat and a great feeling.”

The categories are: outstanding in math/science; outstanding in community service; outstanding in sports activity; outstanding in drama/music; outstanding in writing; outstanding in technology; the Out of the Box Award; Teachers Pick Award; Parents Pick Award; and the Friends Forever Award.

“It’s a good way to recognize children locally who do outstanding things, and to build kids up and keep them encouraged to continue to do well,” said Brooke Bagley, a By R.E.A.L. Kids parent. Her daughter, TuWana Lee, is the group’s vice president.

“Kids should be awarded for being good in math, science, community service and other areas where what they do is outstanding,” said TuWana, 11. “Education is important, so I’m not ashamed of being smart, and others shouldn’t be ashamed, either.

“We set an example, help the community and encourage little kids to do the things we do.”

It’s a perfect promotion.

Sheesh, if America doesn’t get her act together, we’ll see another 50 years of Selma-esque history on rewind and they’ll be the generation protesting arm-in-arm at our University of Oklahomas, or in the legislative halls of Tony Robinson’s Wisconsin, and in the streets of Michael Brown’s Missouri, Trayvon Martin’s Florida, John Crawford and Tamir Rice’s Ohio, Eric Garner’s New York – and so on.

Last year, Kyra Harts, a third-grader at Green Elementary in Raleigh, won the inaugural community service award through By R.E.A.L. Kids. For nearly two years, she’s pitched in on drives to collect book bags and pajamas and also projects to feed the homeless, sing to the elderly and “chaperone” a Halloween bash for children with autism.

“It really helps her see how she can and why she should help other people, regardless of their situation,” said Michelle Harts, Kyra’s mom, also a By R.E.A.L. Kids parent. “She knows to reach out.”

That’s a real-real relevant message – everywhere.

“Everything we do now is with the goal in mind to create an organization that can be a platform in each and every community,” Rooks said. “We really want to spread this across states, across borders.”


Want to nominate someone?

To nominate someone for the 2015 R.E.A.L. Kids Community Choice Awards through April 4, go to www.byrealkids.com. Online voting begins May 1.