By Kaylyn S. Jones
A mentoring program is helping middle school boys succeed academically and socially.
The gentlemen’s League is a dropout prevention and mentoring program for middle school boys. The program was established in August by Archie Moss, a seventh-grade teacher at Whitewater Middle School and based on research that suggests males in mentorship programs are more likely to attend college.
The league pairs students with mentors, tracking their progress toward short- and long term outcomes. Short term goals include fewer suspensions and an increase in academic achievement while long term goals may include applying for college and graduating from high school. The program at Whitewater Middle in West Charlotte has 46 mentors and 55 students. Eventually Moss plans to expand the program to middle schools around the Charlotte area and even high school.
Approximately 3 million high school students drop out every year. 36 percent happen in the ninth grade. in 2011, 7 percent of black males ages 16-24 were high school dropouts, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In North Carolina, 4.47 percent of black males were dropouts over the same span, according to N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
As a teacher, Moss realized that African American and Hispanic students were suspended more frequently and not succeeding academically compared to their white peers. He felt that they were lacking skills they needed to be successful.
“When I was younger, I was involved in a mentoring program called 5,000 Role Models and it really did impact my life and contribute to my success,” he said. “I was able to graduate high school, then graduate college, get my master’s degree and now become a teacher. This is what sparked my interest in creating a mentoring group of my own. I serve as a living proof to all of my students.”
The Gentlemen’s League has a variety of students. Not all of the boys suffer academically or behaviorally. Some are honor roll students who may not have father figures in their life but there is still something they can take away from this program such as learning how to become a man, building relationships, dressing for success and effective communication.
Niki Mooney, mother of Gentlemen’s League student President Jamirious Mooney said: “This program enabled my son to be a leader, boosted his self esteem, and helped him become more comfortable speaking in front of large audiences.”
“This program has inspired me to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to,” Jamirious said. “Also it has helped me become more confident in myself. People now look up to me and respect me. This program changed my school life for the better.”
The Gentlemen’s League focuses on being school based and exposing participants to the real world, Moss maintains. “The mentors come to the school to have lunch and check in on them and talk to them,” he said. “We attend different field trips so they can see what it is like out in the real world. Also, on Fridays the students dress up in business attire and represent both their school and themselves in a positive light.”
Moss says the program’s goal is to alter the lives of mentees by improving their attitude towards academics. It’s having an impact. “I created this program in hope to change the perception of the Black and Hispanic males in the community and show them the good things we are doing.” “Also, to help them realize that it is possible for them to be successful in the world.”