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'Gents' program builds bridges
Messenger photo by Kim Lunsford
Tussing Elementary School’s Young Gents Program helps to build bridges between men in the community and third and fourth graders.
The Pickerington Schools program, which can be life changing for some kids, helps students improve their lives and be better community members.
The program received the Ohio Department of Education’s 2011 Asset Builder Award Nov. 17 at the 2011 Ohio Prevention and Education Conference in Dublin. The award recognizes outstanding people who represent Ohio’s greatest resources in creating and sustaining prevention and intervention efforts.
“The staff and parents of Tussing work diligently every day to provide the best service possible to each student and this award confirms our efforts,” said Jeannette Henson, principal of Tussing Elementary School.
The Young Gents program began during the 2010-2011 school year to motivate, encourage and boost the confidence levels of young males. When looking at achievement data, the school determined that males, in general, were not performing well.
“We knew they were intelligent,” Henson said. “They just needed an incentive to do well.”
Boys are selected for the program based on teacher nominations and referral history for behavioral problems. The program also includes peer models that are able to take what they learn out to the community of students as a whole, Assistant Principal Matt Dansby said.
“Some of the students are leaders in the building and can spread that out,” Dansby said.
The self-sustaining program currently works with 19 mentors and 20 students and meets twice a month for an hour where the boys and mentors gather for pizza.
Using lessons from the John Bridges and Bryan Curtis book, “50 Things Every Young Gentleman Should Know,” the boys learn how to be polite in various situations and proper behavior expected of a gentleman.
“I used to be mean last year,” Fourth-grade student Ibrar Usman said. “The mentors are influencing me to be better.”
The self- sustaining program, coordinated by Dansby and school counselor Cathy Baird, is sponsored by HER Realtors on Tussing, which provided the books; JC Penny Logistics, which provided the dress shirts and ties the boys wear to their meetings; and the mentors, who donate pizza for every meeting.
Tony Hines of JC Penny Logistics facilitates the meetings and started the Dec 3 meeting encouraging the gentlemen to discuss respect, knowing when to be quiet and listen, and proper behavior when meeting people with physical challenges.
The mentors in the program come from various businesses throughout the community and include district officials such as Intern Superintendent Jim Stotlar.
“It’s an outstanding program,” Stotlar said. “It’s fascinating just to hear these young men speak. To have our volunteers give back to the community is what this is all about. I’m proud to be a part of it to help them be better young men.”
Mentor Ton Refermat of JC Penny Logistics said he used to work with the Big Brothers program and enjoys working with young men this age.
Co-worker Walt Lewis agreed saying this was a great learning experience for him as a young man with no children.
“The kids here are all great,” Lewis said. “They are very well behaved.”
Dansby said the program is making a difference throughout the building.
“You don’t notice the immediate impact. As time goes on, you know they are improving,” Dansby said. “Just this time with a male adult is worth its weight in gold. It’s a huge impact. They need an adult who is doing things the right way.”
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