Who Is This Guy, Dwayne Walton?

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Dwayne Walton and his wife Amy.  The Waltons have two children.

Note:  About a month ago, after meeting Adam Straubel for the first time, I asked him to write a biographical piece on Dwayne Walton, Parkesburg Point’s Executive Director.  I first met Dwayne several months ago when he invited me to stop by The Point, Parkesburg’s home-away-from-home for local teenagers run and supported by area churches.  While I had heard bits and pieces of Walton’s story over the years, no one had put it together in a single place.  Dwayne’s too modest (and busy!) to tell the story himself.  But Adam was more than willing to take on the assignment.  What follows is Adam’s take on what makes Dwayne and The Point tick.

By Adam Straubel

One of the hardest questions I was ever asked in college came on a pre-class survey.  Who is your role model, and who is your hero?

A role model was described as person whose behavior, example, and success we seek to emulate.  A hero stands in a class of his own; his strength of character is so great that it exists far outside the realm of possible for most human beings.  

While heroes are the subject of books and quotation, role models rarely get any press.  Role models are the people in our lives who transcend the impossibility of heroism and show us how to live with integrity.

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jesus and other powerful historical figures emerge as the easy answers to the latter question.  But what about the former?

As a member of the abbreviated-attention-span-addicted-to-social-media generation Y, raised in a middle class and Christian home, finding a role model that embodies these characteristics was unusually difficult.  Who understands the depth of today’s youth culture and social problems, has been personally involved in my life, whose example I could hope to follow?

I would have been without an honest answer, if not for Dwayne Walton.

I had met Dwayne when I was a teenager, a bored local youth attracted to the Parkesburg Point for its ping pong tables and skate park.

A dark-skinned South American man who seemed to always be smiling, missing 3 point shots on the basketball court, or somehow captivating a room full of restless young people in an evening message, Dwayne’s genuine interest in our lives was unquestionable.  His story was incredible.

Dwayne lived the first 6 years of his life in Guyana, a small South American country.  He grew up in Brooklyn and Queens New York, attending the same high school as the rapper “50 Cent”.  His father abandoned the family and was later murdered; two uncles were murdered, one right in front of him.  He has overcome challenges greater than I will ever face.  What could have possibly brought this man to Parkesburg?

One day, members an outreach to students in Queens called Student Venture challenged Dwayne and his friends to a game of basketball.  Dwayne and his friends laughed, easily beating the visitors.  Afterward they began talking about God, teaching a message of forgiveness and hope.  As Dwayne describes it, “This was the first time in my life where Jesus had left the church and came to where I was.”

Dwayne was introduced to Willie Branch, an articulate academic type always looking to put students like Dwayne into leadership positions.  “I learned early through Willie’s example to walk by faith, trusting that God is in control,” Dwayne says. “It was hard to give those struggles over to God, to forgive.”

Dwayne’s involvement with the Point began in 2005, serving initially as volunteer and currently as Executive Director.  To many, Dwayne has become the face of the Point.  He works on a daily basis with students and speaks regularly at churches.  He coordinates backpack drives, rewards for students making honor roll, meal distribution, and support during emergency situations.

To those that identify as Christian, Dwayne is committed to serving the “least among us”.  To a more secular audience, he is committed to “at-risk” youth.  Regardless, the impact he has had on the youth in Parkesburg has been tremendous.

As a 22 year old, I can say that the need for individuals like Dwayne and centers like the Point extends far beyond this “at-risk” group.  A place to be seen as more than disposable income, a place to explore spiritual issues, a place to be encouraged to serve others, a place to discuss pressures and challenges, a place that is concerned with personal development.  

The vision that Dwayne has for the center is one that holistically addresses the needs of all young people, providing physical, emotional, academic, and spiritual resources to students in a personal manner.  It is a vision I have embraced, and one that I believe the whole community can support.  

I cannot quite express the depth of the impact that such a role model has had on my life, as I am sure Dwayne struggles to communicate about Willie.  Dwayne himself, as well as the young people he has worked with over the last 6 years, are proof that it is possible for a single positive role model to change a life.

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