Creekside group sets boys up for success

Published 12:37 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Deran Whitney helps Kendall Jeffers knot his tie before a meeting of the Breakfast Club at Creekside Elementary School on Friday.

While the fabric flopped over his hands and slid between his fingers, Kendall Jeffers furrowed his brow in deep concentration, struggling to tie his green tie.

The Creekside Elementary School fourth grader had never knotted his own necktie, but he pushed forward, because it was a special day — the Breakfast Club was meeting.

Kendall is one of 25 young men in the group that meets once a week to discuss how to be productive students.

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“It started out as a group of guys talking,” said Jesse Ellison, the school’s art teacher and sponsor for the group.

He said he started the group two years ago in order to give students more time in the mornings to talk about the things happening in their lives.

“When they arrive, it’s rushed to get them breakfast,” he said. “They couldn’t discuss things in the classrooms. I thought it was good to give them this time.”

The group targets students who could benefit from more time around positive role models.

Ellison said he thinks it’s important to help these students at an early age to prevent them from getting into trouble or dropping out of school later.

At the beginning of the year, the teachers nominate students for the group, and the administrators and guidance counselors work together to figure out who would benefit the most from the group.

Most of the students are in fourth and fifth grade, but there is one first grader.

When it started, 10 students met in Ellison’s room once a week just to talk, but the group has grown into something more.

Now, the boys have a specific topic they cover every week that deals with being successful in school.

They get to school around 8:30 a.m., and while they eat their breakfast, they discuss everything from how to be organized to how to be a good citizen.

“The students drive the conversation sometimes,” Ellison said.

The group even covers how the image you portray affects success, which is exactly why Kendall was fighting with his tie.

Ellison encourages the boys to dress to impress at every meeting, but this day was particularly special, because Suffolk Public School Superintendent Deran Whitney was there to talk to the boys about being productive in school.

Many of the students already had knotted their ties, but still, Kendall worked at it.

Whitney walked up to him, and asked, “You need help tying your tie?”

Kendall watched intently as the superintendent slowly went through each step to achieve a Windsor knot.

Then, Whitney let the boy give it a try.

After a few fumbles, he got it and beamed with pride in his achievement.

Ellison said he wants to equip the students with the means to be successful while they are in school, so they can use those lessons in their lives outside of Creekside.

“When they leave here at 3:45, they can take the tools they learned here and use them,” he said.

Fifth grader Christian Wainright has been a part of the Breakfast Club since the beginning, and through the group, he’s learned how to be more responsible, he said.

“I like it, because it teaches me what to do right,” he said.