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Suffolk students becoming better men

A mentoring group at King’s Fork Middle School is teaching young students how to become excellent men.

Young Men of Pride is a youth male mentoring group organized by KFMS assistant principals Steve Smith and Roosevelt Brown since 2014. The young men wear nice shirts and ties and meet twice monthly during the school year.

They’re encouraged to be better students and citizens, and their attire is part of their development, Brown said.

“If you look good, you’re going to feel good, and if you feel good, then you’re going to act good,” he said. “It all ties together.”

Some of the young men said they felt more comfortable in these clothes rather than typical outfits.

“I feel more like myself than how I would if I dressed like everybody else,” said 11-year-old sixth-grader Miles Barnes.

The students learn proper etiquette for dinner and social engagements ranging from interviews to first dates. They’re taught to respect others and their school by helping lay mulch on the grounds — taking turns with shovels and wheelbarrows — and helping faculty move sports equipment.

“We want them to feel that they have ownership of their own school,” Brown said.

Suffolk Sheriff E.C. Harris has visited them to talk about positively interacting with police officers. On Oct. 19, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney will meet with them to discuss how to tackle short- and long-term goals.

Young Ladies of Distinction join with Young Men of Pride in February for a Healthy Relationships event with class workshops and a fun evening of dancing and snacks.

The mentors learn more about each young man through these activities, and how to help them develop as individuals. This is described to them like being “a polka dot in a plaid world,” said 13-year-old eighth-grader Gary Moore.

“We learn to just be ourselves,” Moore said.

The club has grown from about 16 applicants in its first year to 32 this school year. Male teachers at the school have come to appreciate the club as they see their activities and have even signed up their own children, according to Smith.

“Word is getting out that it’s a lot more than what it sounds like,” he said.

Each young man learns how to do better in his life. When Gary was asked to write a letter to himself about what he wanted to improve on in the future, he wrote how he wanted to do better academically. He did that by bringing his “C” in math to a “B,” he said.

Jamal Jackson, a 14-year-old eighth-grader, achieved his dream of preaching with his first sermon on Aug. 13 at his church. He also plans to start leading his church’s youth activities in the near future.

His sermon talked about the Bible story of Joshua assuming leadership after the death of Moses. He was the vice president of YMOP last year, and this year he plans to run for president, he said.

“That’s what Young Men of Pride teaches us,” he said. “How to be leaders.”