The Top Ladies of Distinction social group is offering free computer classes to children and teens from 5:30-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Pinewood Park Apartments.

Desmond Tolbert, pastor of Stonewall Baptist Church, volunteers with the program because he wants to make a difference in the students’ lives.

“I go and visit a lot of young people in TDCs and prison, and my thought pattern was maybe if we can change their directions now, we won’t have to worry about it down the road,” Tolbert said. “When I grew up in Houston, we didn’t have mentors. It’s different now.”

Over the years, he has seen young men and women head into the prison system, and he has wondered what the community could have done differently to prevent that.

“All these kids want is for someone to talk to them,” Desmond said. “That’s all. I remember when Dez Bryant was one of these kids running around, and all they wanted was someone to talk to, someone they could relate to, somebody to understand their music, their culture.”

The classes are open to any student. They spend time working on homework, playing educational games, tutoring one another and working on digital projects, like creating their own shoes.

Tolbert said the students will be selling the shoes with their designs as a fundraiser.

“I love customizing shoes,” 14-year-old Ke’Shayvery Warren said. “You go to the website, press customize, and you can make shoes for men, women, babies. You can put any picture or colors on there. It’s fun.”

“I like the classes because they help us learn stuff and make sure we get our school work done,” 12-year-old Da’Travion Foley said.

“It helps us with our schoolwork so we can get it done at home instead of at school,” 10-year-old Dava Foley said.

Dava’s favorite games are Dreamscape and Prodigy because she can battle her friends and teachers while learning about reading, math and writing.

Top Ladies of Distinction member Guessippina Bonner said the organization was founded in 1964 at Texas College in Tyler. The group’s primary focus is to work alongside the organization Top Teens of America to mentor children.

The organization hosts several different community-driven outreaches like Healthy Choices, a program funded by the T.L.L. Temple Foundation in which they partner with Lufkin ISD to mentor students in the alternative school and check in on them once they return to their normal classes.

“Our top priority is working with our children and teens,” she said. “This is a community service. We’re just getting started.”

Grace Juarez’s email address is grace.juarez@lufkindailynews.com.