Dictionaries describe a gentleman as “a well-mannered and considerate man with high standards of proper behavior” — “a man of refinement” – and “a civilized, educated, sensitive, or well-mannered man.” The administrators and staff of San Marcos CISD’s Hernandez Intermediate School are taking on the challenge of not only educating young men academically, but also assisting in their development as gentlemen, as they pilot the first organized Gentlemen’s Club in the state of Texas. The first Gentlemen’s Club was founded in 1996 by renowned educator Stephen G. Peters whose teams have taken low performing schools into state and national Blue Ribbon Schools. A former teacher, principal, and administrator, Peters is a national consultant and trainer with Visionary Leaders Institute and The Peters Group. He founded the Gentlemen’s Club as in intervention and empowerment model for young boys. The club has been featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as well as “American, America” which broadcasts to two million viewers in Portugal and Brazil. He has also appeared with former U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige in Washington, D.C. as a community advocacy voice.
Peters has written books such as Do You Know Enough About Me to Teach Me? that outline his strategy of turning young boys into global leaders with the challenge to educators “to capture them, to inspire them, and to teach them.” Peters adds, “Once we form this bond with the student, then we can create a positive and comfortable climate in which they will allow themselves to be taught.”
Hernandez Principal Sandra Reyes says that the importance of the program is in developing male role-models and leaders from the socio-economic boundaries placed on them. The objective is to transition young men who are often the natural leaders among their peers into “positive” leaders. Reyes says, “The process begins by capturing these young men and helping them to see themselves differently. In turn, the world will see them differently.” According to Reyes, there are numerous successful clubs throughout the U.S. in states such as Georgia, South Carolina, Missouri, and Ohio.
“The focus is on education, attendance, behavior, and peer pressure,” Reyes says. “Students are provided an opportunity to learn life skills, social skills, and the importance of education.”
The Gentlemen’s Club curriculum includes over 40 activities which guide students through areas such as conscience, etiquette, dignity, and patience. Through hands-on activities and the curriculum, classroom lessons are reinforced, students are provided options for the future, and are they are exposed to the world outside their community.
According the data provided by The Peters Group, the impact of the Gentlemen’s Club in current programs across the U.S. has been significant, such as the following points:
o There have been drastic decreases in absences and tardiness. Students are taught the importance of showing up and timeliness. They understand that lateness can result in not receiving important class information.
o There have been decreases in suspensions, office referrals, class outbursts, and expulsions in participating schools. Students are expected to respect the system and the classroom by following the rules.
o More than half of the participants have improved their grades – often from failing D’s and F’s to passing with C’s, B’s, and A’s. Some students have made the Honor Rolls for the first time, and many have been promoted to the next grade level without remediation.
Hernandez’s initial program was funded in large part by a grant from the Texas Pioneer Foundation and by the Hernandez Intermediate PTO. Boys are going through an application process through which 30 males will be selected: 15 from 5th grade and 15 from 6th grade. The hope is that this initial program will be so successful that it will continue at the secondary level. Also, if enough interest is shown, Reyes says that the female counterpoint program – The Ladies’ Club-could also be started.
Members of the Gentlemen and Ladies Clubs wear uniforms of recognition. Both wear white shirts. The males wear ties with the “GC” emblem embosses, and females wear emblazoned stoles.
The big day for Hernandez Intermediate will be September 19, when Stephen Peters will return to San Marcos for a facilitator training at the Hernandez Library from 10 – 11 am, followed by a meeting with the student participants from 11 to 11:30 am. The campus will host a luncheon for SMCISD principals from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm that will include a question and answer session.
However, the event of the day will take place the evening of September 19 with the Induction Ceremony to be held in the Performing Arts Center at the San Marcos High School from 6-7:30 pm. At that time, 30 men who are leaders in the San Marcos community will be paired with a new member of the Hernandez Gentlemen’s Club in the official placement of the Gentlemen’s Club tie. The men serve as role-models of inspiration to the new club members, and some have opted to remain in the capacity of a mentor.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt once observed that “courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.” Appreciation and support goes to the teachers and administrators of Hernandez Intermediate who are endeavoring to make courtesy as important as courage to a brave group of adolescent “gentlemen” leaders.
By IRIS CAMPBELL
Public Information Officer – San Marcos CISD
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Student Success Initiatives Mentor (SSI) Joe Merchant with Hernandez students Jimmy Rodriguez and Gustavo Trevino and Principal Sandra Reyes
SSI Mentor Joe Merchant demonstrates how to tie a tie for students Jimmy Rodriguez and Gustavo Trevino.
Jimmy Rodriguez gets instruction form SSI Mentor Joe Merchant.