Published On: Fri, Aug 26th, 2016

Male Role Models Welcome Students Back to School With Encouragement

Last week, one of our local schools kicked off the new school year in a big way, thanks to some dads and father figures.

As the students at Village Academy in Delray Beach walked into the building, 47 cheerleaders, or rather well-dressed men, greeted them with high-fives and cheers.

“Welcome back!” and “Have a great year!” the men, who lined the hallway, said in chorus.

It was a sight to behold. Just imagine the deer-in-headlights look these first-time students had as they pounced upon these men -whom they did not know – who clapped, patted them on the backs and gave them words of encouragement.

Some of the kids were so fired up by the attention as they passed through the line and smacked hands like they were running down a football field. 

Among the band of cheerleaders were several employees from the city’s water and sewer department, the fire department, local fraternities and several small business operators.

I sent our mayor an invitation just days before, and before the message could leave my laptop, he responded, “Count me in.” Our chief of police, had been on vacation, but he donned his uniform and joined the team.

It is no surprise to many why the police and the city – all segments of the community – enjoy such a good relationship because of the level of dedication and commitment as was displayed by our mayor and chief.

“This is so good that the first people they see are men, as they start the school year,” said Valerie Bush, who brought her grandson to school. “Not to mention that many of these students who left the house this morning might not have had any positive encouragement. So it is important that these father figures are here to show them that emotion, that expression of love and to show them that someone really cares about them.”

The event began last year after discussions with the new principal, LaToya T.  Dixon, who thought it was a brilliant idea.

“Many of our students come from homes, where they do not have fathers as male role models,” said Ms. Dixon, who is in her second year as principal. “It is so important that all children have a positive male role model who is doing something good for them, something they can relate to, to give them the idea that they are worthwhile and education is worthwhile.”

It is important to have community supporters to stand in the gap for those students who lack role models, especially on such an important day as the first day of school.

Ms. Dixon also thought it was important for every student to know that she, her staff and the community are investing in their education and that the team is stressing the importance of coming to school ready to Work Hard, Be Good, and Think for the 2016-2017 school year.

A Florida Department of Education study found a positive correlation between family involvement and a student’s academic success. Further research also found that when fathers are actively involved in their child’s education, the student earn better grades, score higher on tests, enjoy school, has fewer discipline problems and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college.

The event also was intended to change the public’s perception of black men. 

It was so gratifying to see the number of black men who showed up to inspire the students. I hope Monday’s showing addressed those who maintain that black men are not valued or that there are not enough black men doing something positive.

From this initiative, we have launched Delray Beach SMART Reading Club where men and boys, in the first through third grades, will meet for reading and story time and promote mentorship.

We are inviting all dedicated men to meet each 2nd Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Catherine Strong Park, 400 SW 12th Ave.,Unit #5, Delray Beach. Call 561-665-0151 to volunteer or for more information.

I applaud these fathers and male figures who blazed the path for our future leaders on Aug. 8. We need more male to step forward to show these students that their community has their backs. Let’s show them that we care.

To volunteer at Village Academy or for more information, call the school at 561-243-6100. C.Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@DelrayBeachTribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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