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For these four New Londoners, they're not just imagining it

New London — If windbags, gasbags and blowhards were exportable, New London would lead the league in revenue generated. That’s what we do here: bloviate and pontificate. But when it comes to the devil of details, the agony of effort and the interest in actually doing something, our beloved city is mostly a swing and a miss.

And this is what makes a quartet of recent New London High grads beacons to all of us. They’re actually doing something to help.

Meet Khaleed Fields, Jevon Elmore, Kevin McKinnon and Jason Pelham, whose collaboration has produced the city’s newest business, Outlet Services, a gym on Colman Street next to Subway. Imagine: Business owners at 24 years-old with boundless ideas on how to help kids, their parents and the community.

They’re doing something.

“We see what everybody else sees,” said Fields, 24, a recent UConn graduate who played football and basketball for the Whalers. “People talk about changes in New London, but no one is willing to put their foot forward. Or not willing to put things in their life aside to be able to have the time. People start their journeys on the backs of helping other people. I feel like getting started at a young age is going to help. We want to show kids they can do it.”

This is how: Because the kids who aren’t all that much younger, kids with similar backgrounds and stories, will see Fields, Elmore, McKinnon and Pelham actually doing it.

“It’s huge because they are a beacon of hope,” said Mike Morgan, a New London High grad who works at Sound Community Services, a mental health agency in the city. “When you’re in high school in New London, you’re told to try to do the best you can in school, maybe go to college and then get a job. The fact they’re going out and showing the youth in New London you can be an entrepreneur and give back to your community … I think it’s beautiful.”

They did the work. Market research. Facilities. Program ideas. Fields found an investor. Real life stuff.

“This is the main reason I didn’t play sports in college. I wanted to do something bigger,” Fields said. “I want to give back to the community. And give it my full time attention. I focused on entrepreneurship, how business worked, how to make money. How money makes money.

“I wanted to do it all on my own. But one night, I was watching a comedy special. Russell Simmons was talking about how Def Comedy Jam got started. Behind every business that flourishes, there’s money that’s originally behind it. He had an investor. Businesses take time.”

People have been filing in to the gym, eager to see what’s been wrought. Get there soon. Because the guess here is they’ll outgrow the building quickly, what with plans to train kids athletically, but also provide mentors and tutoring for kids at the high school.

“We want our voices in their ears,” Fields said. “Not saying we’re cooler than they are, but that our ages are similar and we can connect to them.”

What strikes you immediately: Their worldliness belies their age. Maybe it’s the combination of growing up here, but experiencing some time away in college. They’ve already identified it’s not just a kid problem in New London. It’s a parent problem, too.

“We grew up here,” Fields said. “I had great parents. But I see a lot of people whose parents don’t do for them what mine did for me. They were always nurturing. A lot of kids don’t get that. I learned in college that we need to start on the youth and on the parents as well. Parenting is so important. I can’t stop people from having kids. But we want to get into their heads and tell them we have the tools they’ll need to raise their kids better and give people the resources to excel.”

Outlet Services, walkable from the high school and Bennie Dover, already offers discounts to New London residents and families. They’re talking to the schools as well.

“This is a place of refuge for the kids, where they can come and be comfortable,” Fields said. “It isn’t about throwing money at the kids. It’s about investing your time with them. Kids react to that. It’s being real with them. Being vulnerable with them. They need to know everybody struggles. But it’s about who gets up and keeps pushing.”

Once again: Khaleed Fields, Jevon Elmore, Kevin McKinnon and Jason Pelham.

They’re not talking.

They’re doing.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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