By Terry Rogers
On Monday, January 17, Lamarr Shorts from Lulu M. Ross Elementary and Robert McPhatter from Mispillion Elementary were recognized by the Milford Board of Education for their creation of programs designed to help boys at each school develop leadership skills. The Ross program, called the League of Gentlemen, is for at-risk boys who need help in becoming well-rounded citizens. The Mispillion organization, Gentleman’s Leadership Team, teaches students the basic fundamentals of being a leader and a gentleman.
“I wanted to find a way to be more proactive than reactive to several of the male students I interacted with regularly,” Mr. McPhatter said. “I looked into some options and felt this would be an awesome way to get them involved.”
Mr. Shorts said that he wanted to make an impact in the community and felt he should start in the place where he spends most of his day. The Gentlemen’s Leadership Team meets once each week for breakfast. Mr. McPhatter said that, while the students have breakfast, they have accountability time where they discuss any issues they may have had during the week and seek solutions from the team. On special events days, the team wears shirts and ties in order to get a better understanding of the importance of appearance.
“They also wear a team pin that represents our core values ‘F.I.L.E.’” Mr. McPhatter said. “This stands for Focus, Inspire, Lead and Excel. We have had great speakers come in and visit the team and present positive motivational messages. We will be attending a game at the high school where the team will be introduced to the fans at half time. We hope to groom these boys into positive young men who will set examples for others as far as appearance, attitude, hygiene, manners, respect and accountability.”
At Ross, the League of Gentlemen has a similar purpose. It is designed to empower, cultivate and grow young men to their natural success, according to Mr. Shorts. “We use sports, extra-curricular activities, in-depth, open group conversation and discussion, and every day school and life situations to help the young men build character, understand responsibility, leadership, respect and to learn their natural ability and gifts that make up the greatness that they all hold,” said Shorts. “The young men are provided with a brotherhood and structured motivation to learn of themselves, their strengths, flaws and reasons for these as they build confidence in who they are and what they possess. We help them understand how important they are to the positive development of their community, society and this world.”
Mr. Shorts said that when he began the League of Gentlemen, he had several young men in mind that he felt would benefit from such a program. In addition, teachers and staff recommended individuals from the student body that they felt would benefit. As the group began to gain recognition, Mr. Shorts said other students came and asked to join.
“There is an awesome group of students here and these young men have allowed me to build a relationship with them,” Mr. Shorts said. “I knew it would be a good place to start as I’ve learned that the staff and administrators of Ross and Milford School District share an enthusiasm with me for continual growth and character of our students.”
The Ross program is not filled with students that most would consider “at-risk,” Mr. Shorts explained. It was his philosophy that young men are all at-risk of being victim to negativity and every day obstacles that can unknowingly deter them from goals and that many young men are at risk of not living a purposeful life that they can be proud of. The League of Gentlemen is designed to help the young men learn the actual meaning of becoming a man, having respect and being respected as well as an understanding of having and fulfilling responsibilities.
“My overall goal is to instill values that the team will remember daily,” Mr. McPhatter said about the Gentlemen’s Leadership Team. “As they transition into the next level in life, we hope they carry these values forward and that they will provide them with the skills for success.” The Gentlemen’s Leadership Team is open to fourth and fifth grade male students who were chosen by Mr. McPhatter and other administrators. The students were chosen based on their need for a positive male role model as they mature into young men and move into the middle school age group.
“The team has really come into its own,” Mr. McPhatter said. “The first time we had a guest speaker come in and they wore their shirts and ties, I could really see the focus and attention in their faces and demeanor. Several teachers came up to me and told me ta the boys had a great day and looked very nice. I believe that every student possesses great potential. It feels good as a faculty member to see it, but the best reward is when the student realizes their own potential. I’ve had several of the male students approach me and ask to be part of this team.”
Mr. Shorts echoes Mr. McPhatter’s thoughts. He says that the boys that are part of the group at Ross love the meetings and look forward to being with each other.
“As we are constantly learning new things every meeting, the young men are very interested in the things we have discussed thus far and in the approach taken to learn them,” Mr. Shorts said. “Other students and even teachers throughout the school love the group. Some are not completely knowledgeable about what the group entails, but they continue to inquire about it. I believe that every individual born on this Earth is here for a reason. I believe that we are all full of greatness and a destiny to accomplish awesome things. I believe that the well-being of friendships, relationships, families communities and this world fall on the shoulders of the structure of a man. League of Gentlemen will use everything accessible to help them see this and not hesitate to reach every bit of potential that was put inside of them.
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