Idyllwilde Elementary pilots the first-ever Young Men of Promise program in Seminole Count
Every Thursday morning, a cohort of boys from Idyllwilde Elementary School stream into the cafeteria, eager to meet their mentors. The impressionable schoolboys are members of the Idyllwilde Young Men of Promise program, a new leadership development and mentorship initiative started this school year that pairs the elementary students with members of Seminole High’s Young Men of Excellence program.
Before every meeting, each program’s captain steps out in front of his fellow classmates and proudly recites their creed. It’s a powerful moment when elementary and high-school-aged young men witness and showcase confidence and a commitment to bettering themselves.
Students are then matched up, usually with the same mentor, and participate in a series of well-organized, rotating activities. Together, they work on math and reading skills and use conversation starters to have guided discussions.
While the Young Men of Excellence program has been active for several years at Seminole High, the elementary-level Young Men of Promise program is in its infancy. Both initiatives were born out of the need to improve overall outcomes for male students in the district’s public schools
“At Idyllwilde, it started as a Leaders in Training program, but eventually evolved into the Young Men of Promise program to attract more students,” says Yvonne Bradley, Idyllwilde’s assistant principal, who helps oversee the program and its partnership with Seminole High School. “It’s great for our students to have this experience at an early age. By having good examples to look up to, they gain hope for things they didn’t think they could do, and they figure out the type of man they want to become.”
Onsite at each weekly mentoring session is Idyllwilde behavior support specialist Olanthia Stallworth and Kerry Wiggins, a Seminole High School teacher who helps run the Young Men of Excellence program.
“The results have been encouraging,” says Olanthia. “I’ve seen less of these boys in my office for behavior issues, and I’ve even heard from parents who’ve seen behavior improve at home. The older students encourage the younger students to behave, and both sides keep each other accountable.”
“The big kids need this as much as the little kids do,” adds Kerry. “It’s productive and powerful. To show appreciation and love like this at a young age is critical to their success.”
In Idyllwilde’s cafeteria every week, the young men talk and settle into their shared activities. The atmosphere is happy and lively. Let’s meet a couple of the mentor/mentees and see how this program is bringing out the best in everyone:
Kaleem, Germane, and Davery
Seminole High senior Davery Correa never had a younger sibling, so he’s embraced his mentees as little brothers.
“All of us in the Young Men of Excellence program are excited to come over to Idyllwilde and spend time with the kids,” says Davery. “I hope I show them how to be true to their word and make good choices.”
During a recent mentoring session, Davery was matched up with with fourth grader Germane Cooper and fifth grader Kaleem Richardson, who is the captain of Young Men of Promise.
“I am thankful to be captain, and it feels good to get up in front of everyone and share the creed with my fellow students,” says Kaleem. “My mentors have helped show me that I can be a leader and that I need to be responsible for my actions.”
“The program is helping me get better at focusing and doing my work in class,” says Germane. “It’s also helped me reach my goal to be more respectful. That’s a big thing I’m working on.”
Jermal, Victor, and Demetrius
President of the Young Men of Excellence program, Victor Towns is a senior who aspires to study political science in college.
“I know how society shapes the mind-sets of young people, but I want to help these kids see their own potential and help them along the way,” says Victor. “I enjoy getting to see the up-and-comers and all the potential they have.”
Fourth grader Jermal Jones is good at math, and fifth grader Demetrius Harris is an artist, says Victor.
“What I really like about Young Men of Promise is getting to meet new people and getting help with my math and writing,” says Demetrius. “I’m usually the class clown, but I’m getting better at paying attention and behaving.”
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