Participant Spotlight on… Halston Canty
EBV-SU 2017 welcomed aspiring veteran entrepreneurs to the Syracuse University campus. Each one came with a unique story to tell. Here’s one of them. Meet Halston Canty.
Halston Canty looked around the Clover Corner room at Syracuse’s Southwest Community Center. He saw six or seven young boys playing and talking, mostly unsupervised, with no lesson plans to follow.
“I came in, I sat down, and I observed,” he said. These were the beginnings of the Southwest Community Center’s Journey to Manhood program.
“I just got on their level – talked with them, laughed with them. They came around.”
Canty is a level four case manager for alternative high schools in the Syracuse area. He knows how to succeed with what most would consider “problem” students. His military background gave him a strong foundation in discipline, motivation, integrity, and being a team player – all of which he uses in his work. These are also among the lessons he hopes to pass on to those he now mentors.
“I learned through the military that you can do anything. All you need is the proper training… as long as you have the right teacher with the right attitude.”
For the boys at the Journey to Manhood program, Canty was ready to be that teacher.
At first, he admits, he was a little nervous. No one had yet managed to grow the program beyond the scene before him. The children weren’t exactly known for model behavior, either.
“Sometimes the kids – you know, they’re young,” he said, “they want to find the easiest way to do things. But you have to show them that when you cheat, you’re cheating yourself at the same time.”
But that’s part of why Canty felt called to lend a helping hand. To him, it was a challenge.
“I knew that God doesn’t give you anything he doesn’t prepare you for. So I was like, ‘you know what – let me trust my faith. Let me just walk forward and do this.’”
After his first day at the Journey to Manhood program, Canty took his time building camaraderie with the boys. He encouraged them to talk and he listened to their stories. He learned about who they were, who they shared their lives with and who they hoped to be. He played “cool” music, asking for their opinions on the latest rap artists and challenging them to defend those opinions on occasion.
The boys began to trust him.
“They told me how their fathers are incarcerated, or their brothers might be incarcerated, or their uncles; Certain things that their parents go through that they see,” Canty said. “Once you get past the children having that wall put up, they allow that wall to be removed – and they allow you to come further and further into their lives.”
From that trust, he established himself as a mentor, and Journey to Manhood blossomed. The program that started with just six or seven boys finished the year with 22.
That was in 2015.
Now, Journey to Manhood has become so popular that Canty sometimes has to turn students away. He hopes to eventually see the day when the program is large enough to accept every interested child, but ‘til then, he’s focused on changing the lives he can.
“This is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to work with youth… I’ve always felt like there was something inside of me that I needed to share with the next generation.”
When he was a child himself, Canty saw the world differently from his peers. He noticed that he had the ability to shape his friends’ and brothers’ thoughts through positive conversation, and tested that talent by engaging them in casual talk about behavior, morals, and aspirations.
“They would leave from having a conversation with me, and they would start behaving a little differently – in a positive way,” he said.
More recently, Canty’s been leading by more than just words and conversation. He’s been leading by example.
He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work at SU’s David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics – a dream he says he didn’t think could happen, even just a few years prior.
“Getting into SU was one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life… I’d dreamed of it, but I never thought it was possible,” he said.
Canty said that his time at SU has been just as great as he’d hoped it would be. It’s also been impacted by his military experience in many positive ways. In addition to arriving on campus already equipped with the tools he needed to succeed – diligence, perseverance, a strengthened sense of purpose – Canty said he’s enjoyed several unique opportunities to share his story with the SU community. One particular opportunity came last January, when he was asked to participate in a stage play highlighting his experiences both in the military and beyond.
Separated ran for one night only at the Syracuse Stage, and featured the voices of eight student veterans. It made their stories accessible to an audience that might not have had such experiences, covering both the highs and lows of military service and the transition back to civilian life. Separated helped the public at large understand the unique challenges faced by those who have served.
The challenges on Canty’s mind nowadays, though, center around how he can best help the boys at Journey to Manhood.
This month, he’ll be participating in the IVMF’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV), where he’ll learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship and small business management. He wants to take the skills he’ll learn there back with him to Journey to Manhood to make it as impactful as it can possibly be.
“I want to show the boys all the different ways they can be successful. The EBV has already opened my eyes so much,” he said, “and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”