Delaware Students Learn Leadership and Character-Building through Boys 2 Men ClubDelaware Special Education teacher Andrew Trapasso was helping with dismissal last year when a fifth-grade student walked up to him.
“Can you help me tie this?” he asked, holding up a necktie.
“I said, sure!” Mr. Trapasso recalled. “We started talking, and he said ‘we should start a group where we do things like this. We can talk about things that matter.’ It was dismissal, so we didn’t have much time, but I asked him: what matters to you? And he said, ‘bullying. In school, in the neighborhood – it happens too much.’”
The next morning, Mr. Trapasso noticed another 5th grader walking down the hall at the start of the school day. He was minding his own business, walking in an orderly fashion – doing all the right things. Yet the attention of most everyone in the hallway was focused on two students who were doing the opposite. That, he says, was his ‘aha’ moment.
“I realized that we spend a lot of our energy on the students who are difficult,” Mr. Trapasso explained. “I thought: what a great idea to create a group that identifies and celebrates the students who want to come to school and who want to be good role models.”
He met with Principal Moshiena Faircloth, and soon after, his Boys 2 Men group started meeting. Each week, third, fourth and fifth graders meet once in grade-level gatherings during a lunch period. The goal: to help them develop leadership skills, responsibility, integrity, courage, citizenship, and ambition. Mr. Trapasso said he hopes to help the students develop the skills associated with being responsible members of the community – both in school and out. Students say it’s working!
“I feel like the group is helping me be a good person,” 4th grader Assir Carter shared.
“The talks that we have, and giving back to others, make me want to behave better,” 3rd grader Abniel Guerra-Torres agreed.
“The group has helped me want to be a leader and help other people,” 4th grader Phearian Jones added. “I knew that bullying isn’t good, and that if you see someone being bullied, you should tell the teacher or tell them to stop. But now I feel like I would actually do it.”
To join the group, grade level teachers were asked to suggest the names of students they thought could benefit from the program. In its first year, 15 students took part. This year, the group has grown to 19.
Each student, upon joining, signs a student-created Boys 2 Men contract. In it, they commit to attend school 90% of the time, behave with integrity and demonstrate that they care about what they do, follow teacher directions and requests, be kind to others, be responsible for themselves, and display appropriate classroom and hallway behavior.
“These students are role models for our building,” Mr. Trapasso said. “We asked them: what are our expectations for you going to be? They had to take ownership. This group is based on mutual respect: we listen to them, and they listen to us. It’s a place where they can come to talk about things that matter to them – they can connect. They’re free to talk about the things they want to talk about… it’s a no-judgement zone.”
Since joining the group, Mr. Trapasso said he’s seen positive changes in many of the group’s participants.
For several students, their daily school attendance averages jumped from 60-70 percent early in the school year to 90 and even 100 percent since becoming active in Boys 2 Men!
“Doing the right thing may not always be the popular thing,” he said. “But our students are realizing they have a responsibility to themselves. It comes down to ownership and accountability. I see the kids being chattier in the hallways – they say hello more. Their attendance is better – they come to school more. Academically, they’re making improvements. I see a lot of confidence in them, and in the way they carry themselves. They are making the choices that are best for them, and our goal is to continue to develop those leadership skills.”
Fifth grade student Reimel Hayward, now in Boys 2 Men for his second year, said he most enjoys the field trips – to a local fire station, for neighborhood cleanups or celebratory picnics – but it’s the life lessons he values the most.
“I like that we get to know new people through talking about what we’re going through and what we want to do when we grow up,” he shared. “Being in this group is going to help us as we grow up so we know how to take charge and be leaders!”
The group also includes a civic readiness component, to help the students learn that they have the ability to help others in need. This year, they raffled off two baskets, raising $750 which they donated to the CNY Diaper Bank. On Earth Day, they hosted a neighborhood cleanup. And they’re already planning a Fire Prevention Awareness Month campaign, as well as a holiday food drive for next year.
We’re proud of these Boys 2 Men students for making good choices and for being role models to their peers!