Sometimes Facebook is good for something.
For retired Coastal Carolina University professor Rev. Dr. Preston McKever-Floyd, sharing inspirational memes on social media gained him a Facebook friend that ended up changing his life.
A man named Seibo Toee from Liberia, then living in Laos, befriended McKever-Floyd after having seen some inspirational messages from his page forwarded throughout social platform.
They began to chat, and McKever-Floyd got to know Toee better. Toee was readying to return to Liberia, and through a Facebook message asked McKever-Floyd if he would be his father.
McKever-Floyd was taken aback at first, and consulted a teacher friend from Sierra Leone to ask about the request.
“Liberia has had civil wars up to 2003. A lot of young people literally do not have fathers,” McKever-Floyd said.
McKever-Floyd discovered the request was to be considered an honor bestowed upon him to serve as Toee’s mentor.
Once Toee got back to Liberia, he began sharing with McKever-Floyd through the internet about the conditions of the community and what the young people and children really needed in the area. Together they came up with the idea of starting what has now become Dr. Preston L. McKever-Floyd Youth Sports Academy.
The academy is a free afterschool, summer, and weekend program that opened in 2014.
“Education is the primary goal. We use soccer to teach life principles and leadership principles,” McKever-Floyd said. “The other thing I’m big on – they are learning to give back. They also have projects like cleaning up the neighborhood and helping the elderly.”
In 2017, they were accredited by the Liberian government, and soon thereafter by the Youth Sport Ministry through the government, McKever-Floyd said.
This designation meant that the government now provides equipment and uniforms for the academy’s four soccer teams, serving 150 boys and girls.
In Liberia, children must pay to go to one of the two schools in the area.
“Some students could not afford to, so I provided scholarships for 13 children at one school and 14 at another,” he said.
As for Toee, he serves as the assistant director, and Abraham Wesseh takes the helm as director.
McKever-Floyd said Wesseh is well-known there as a soccer coach and teacher.
Their mascot is the Eagle, he said.
“I decided on the Eagle…it’s my spirit animal,” McKever-Floyd said.
The academy houses the Lady Eagles, Eagles 1, 2 and 3, and the youngest group dubbed the Eaglets.
“We have children from age 5…they are very serious,” he said.
Despite providing scholarships and helping to start the school, McKever-Floyd has yet to be able to travel to Liberia to visit the Academy and the children.
He said he had planned to go there this year, but financially it did not work out, so he hopes to visit next year.
He said the first project they did at the academy was to send them backpacks and school supplies. Unfortunately, due to very high shipping costs, money must be sent for the supplies to be bought in Liberia and given to the children there instead of shipping filled backpacks from the United States.
When the children received their supplies, it really moved him, he said. Toee and Wesseh tried to arrange a video call to thank him, but were able to get only audio to work.
“I’m glad the video didn’t work. It tore me up to hear how appreciative they were to receive their bookbags and supplies. The parents were crying. I couldn’t have taken seeing that, it would have been too much,” McKever-Floyd said.
Toee tells McKever-Floyd that he “has no idea what the impact is over there” and that it “has changed families’ lives.”
Despite the distance, he was able to be the commencement speaker for the local school via video in recent years.
McKever-Floyd hopes to eventually make the academy a full-fledged school.
He said that when he originally retired, he had no idea all of this would happen.
“It wouldn’t have crossed my mind actually. Of all the things I thought of [doing], this was not it. It all happened at the same time,” he said.
McKever-Floyd is a Conway native, and was one of the first five African-Americans to graduate from Conway High School. His father, Samuel P. “Slim” Floyd was the first full-time African-American policeman in South Carolina, and served on the Conway police force from 1947-1976. McKever-Floyd holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Virginia State University, a master’s degree in divinity from Duke University, an all but dissertation ranking in religion and literature from Emory University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of South Carolina. He was also a co-founder of the Women and Gender Studies program at CCU in 2001, and is a published author and vocalist.
If not for that Facebook friend request, those 150 students in Liberia would be in much different situations.
“A lot of people like to down Facebook. It’s up to you what it does. It’s how you use it. It has been a blessing,” McKever-Floyd said. “The motto for the school is ‘Changing the future of Liberia one child at a time.”