Elementary School Helps Transform Boys into Men

Filed under: Schools |

Perhaps a children’s hero, Peter Pan famously vowed to never grow up, remaining a young boy forever. But with age comes responsibility, respect, fairness, citizenship, caring, and trustworthiness. That’s why Merrifield Elementary has launched a new after-school program based on those six pillars of character, to help transform young boys into men. “The objective of the Boys to Men program is to create an engaging learning opportunity, experience, and challenge for each student, resulting in an improved outlook on their learning environment and their commitment to learning,” explained Merrifield Elementary Assistant Principal Byron Mason.

Starting the program during the 2010-11 school year, Mason has several years of experience as a director for after-school programs, serving in that role before coming to Duncanville ISD. At Merrifield, he says he noticed several students needing more time and guidance than the traditional school model could provide. “They needed an innovative and abstract learning environment, which addressed the social and behavioral coping skills that could lead to academic success.”

Boys to Men provides its participants with access to adult male role models/ mentors willing to help students gain a wealth of knowledge and skills applicable to social and academic settings. The mentees are primarily recommended by their homeroom teachers based on discipline data, social, and academic concerns. Approximately two students from each class in grades 2-4 are enrolled in the program with parental approval.

Meeting every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, activities begin with a recitation of the Six Pillars of Character. “Boys to Men teaches us what each one means,” said fourth grade participant Noah Rodriguez. “We also talk about how we can use them in our lives – things we want to control – and pledge to demonstrate the Pillars at Merrifield.”

Partnering with Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, from one to three mentors are present at each meeting. “With little or no male teachers at the elementary level, some of our young male students have very few encounters with male role models in their community,” commented Mason. The program is also teaching its participants the skills of carpentry. Students built a bench for the school’s front foyer during the 2010-11 school year, with tools and materials provided by the American Legion. “I hear people saying that it’s a nice bench,” said Rodriguez. “I’m happy and glad that everyone is enjoying what we made.”

And bench bystanders aren’t the only ones singing Boys to Men’s praises – according to Mason, data shows a 50% drop in discipline referrals for participants. “It’s helping me control my anger,” explained Rodriguez. “I’m learning to be a leader, and my grades have been getting higher.” A second-year participant, Rodriguez says he also enjoys meeting new people and making new friends. But most of all, he’s looking forward to the two window seats he’ll help produce for Merrifield’s library this school year. “I really like getting to learn to use tools and building things. Boys to Men is teaching me how to become a young man and do men things.”

Mason hopes to continue this program at Merrifield, and would like to see the program expanded to include other schools. “I believe the need exists at every campus,” he said. “The future of Boys to Men rests in the commitment of educators and community mentors giving of their time in order to impact those students who don’t necessarily fit our desired student profile.  I hope the program will continue with its objectives, which are manly deeds, scholarship, and love for all mankind.”