Noble mentoring program provides role models for boys
According to Fatherhood.org, boys who lack positive male role models become four times more likely to live in poverty, face an increased risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and have more trouble academically.
Harder to measure is the effect of positive male role models on those same boys. How can one quantify the bad things that don’t happen?
Beginning in January at Noble Elementary School, 36 fourth- and fifth-grade boys were matched with mentors. Noble's Gents to Gentlemen Mentoring Program is a result of Principal Rachael Coleman’s vision for a mentoring program for boys. In a letter to rising fourth-grade parents, Coleman wrote, “The school feels that your child will greatly benefit from having another positive male adult role model in his life and hopes that the relationship will lead to increased academic performance, self-esteem, and emotional development.”
The staff was immediately on board with the initiative, announced at the end-of-year staff meeting last June. Intervention Specialist Bambi Vargo recruited mentors. First, the CH Police Department signed on, then the CH Fire Department. Reaching Heights suggested potential mentoring contacts in the community, and the Noble Neighbors group became involved.
“Word of mouth was helpful, too,” said Vargo. “We have the uncle of a staff member, the nephew of a staff member and the father of one of our kindergarten students. We have nine mentors from all walks of life: we have a police officer, a fire chief, retirees, college students, school administrators, and a chef. Two of the mentors are CH-UH alumni.” District administrative staff members Sandy Womack and Paul Lombardo have signed on as substitutes.
The program is a collaboration within Noble that extends out into the wider community. The name Noble's Gents to Gentlemen was suggested by Noble math teacher Mary Windham. The curriculum was developed with assistance from Derrick Williams, father of a Noble kindergarten student and professor of communications at Tri-C, who has significant experience in creating and leading mentoring programs.
The Noble's Gents to Gentlemen curriculum focuses on four character traits: social responsibility, respect, self-discipline and integrity. Learning for Life (www.learningforlife.org), the character-building program of the Boys Scouts of America, is an element of the program, with lesson plans designed to reinforce social, ethical and academic skills.
Fourth grade is the ideal time to establish solid social and academic support before the transition to middle school. In some studies, reading scores start to decline as elementary school winds down. This fourth-grade slump is more often reported by teachers of disadvantaged children. Once the learn-to-read threshold is crossed in third grade, school becomes dominated by text, and students are expected to read to learn. If literacy skills are not strong enough to support the shift, frustration and disengagement usually follow.
Small groups of four or five meet twice a month for 20 minutes with a mentor, borrowing ten minutes from recess and ten minutes from the lunch period. The program officially began on Jan. 11, when the boys met mentors for the first time, overseen by Khaz Finley from the Alternative Learning program.
Noble alumnus and retiree Bob Dawson met with a group of three, with a fourth boy absent. Leading the group with quiet humor, he invited the boys to introduce themselves. After a bit of ice-breaking, did-you-see-that-game sports chat, the conversation shifted to work and responsibility. One fifth-grade boy announced he’d already had his first job, at a barber shop. When Dawson wondered aloud if any of the boys had a personal hero, one boy immediately responded, “my mom.”
Introductory sessions included some tie-tying practice, which is appropriate: Upon completion of the program, each boy will receive a necktie during a recognition ceremony as a symbol of his growth from “gent” to “gentleman.”
Patti Carlyle is a Canterbury Elementary School parent and writer living in University Heights.