Every Monday morning, nearly 30 sixth grade boys meet with community volunteers in the Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle’s media center. At times, they may be learning how to tie a tie. Other times, they may be practicing the correct way to properly introduce themselves to someone.
They’re the inaugural class of the middle school’s 1 Million Men in the Making program, a mentoring initiative spearheaded by Heart for Monroe that focuses on developing character and confidence in young men.
“This program, 1 Million Men in the Making, will prepare these young men for whatever opportunities they face. It means that when they get into a situation where they need to do certain things to be successful, they will be prepared for those skills,” said Monroe Middle Principal Denny Ferguson. “When they walk into a college scholarship interview, they’ll know how to interact with the president of the university. If they’re at a basketball game at Monroe High School, and are cheering on their team, they’re also going to know how to behave in that scenario.”
As part of the 1 Million Men in the Making program, mentors help their mentees develop life skills (i.e., job interview skills, money management, etc.) and personal character attributes (i.e., leadership, responsibility, etc.). The data-driven program will monitor the participants’ school performance and provide results at the end of the school year.
Wingate University senior Nate Ogutu said when he heard about the 1 Million Men in the Making program, he didn’t hesitate to sign up.
“I want to give these kids something that I didn’t have. I had to teach myself how to shave, how to tie a tie and how to greet people,” he said. “We can’t take our current positions for granted. If we want our kids to be successful, we have to give back.”
To kick off the program, the sixth graders attended an induction ceremony on Jan. 16, where they publicly announced their commitment to the program. They also received a “bag of swag,” which included a Manual to Manhood book and t-shirt emblazoned with the motto “Skills make a man valuable. Character makes him invaluable.”
Since their induction, the mentees and mentors have participated in team-building exercises, learned the proper way to dress in a variety of settings as well as proper etiquette when meeting someone for the first time.
“At first, I was a little excited and nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what the activities would be,” said sixth-grader Justin Parsons, adding that he’s most looking forward to an activity where they will learn how to build things. “But now I think it’s fun.”
As he watched several mentees leave the media center at the end of their weekly meeting, some of whom were proudly wearing their 1 Million Men in the Making t-shirts, Nate said he has enjoyed getting to know the students during the past month and looks forward to coming back each week.
“You can see when they start to get to know you, when they start to trust and talk to you. It’s fun seeing them learn the things that you are depositing into their lives,” he said. “They’re using it and remembering and learning it, so this experience is very rewarding.”
For more information about Monroe Middle’s 1 Million Men in the Making program, please contact Monroe Middle School Counselor Jennifer Lodge at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.”