The Power of a Man's Story
When their Mentors begin to describe some of the abuse, poverty and racism that they had to overcome, the boys realize that they can “overcome” as well. Then we access our growing list of men who often begin their relationship with the Silverback Society as “Role Models”. So our first six weeks of consistency pays off in having groups of boys who accept our leadership and assume that whatever we say, do, or present to them must be real and important to them. Now we can present strangers and they get the same reception, respect and undivided attention.
The “Role Model” speakers are blown away by the reception and respectful attention. Most of these men have been “Black History” speakers at schools before, but they have never been received like this before. The level of cooperation is amazing to all that observe it especially since we have no leverage except the relationship.
This is one of our most powerful recruiting tools for weekly Mentors and in the case of Charles Kennedy it brought in another financial contribution from him plus his willingness to address two more campuses, even with a busy schedule of commuting between Kennedy Financial Group offices here and in Atlanta.
Fire Chief Terry Hardy came to speak once and immediately signed up as a Mentor and has begun his year of training. David Durand owner of Durand Tuxedo Consultants is always a stalwart and in his third year as a Role model presenter and good for several presentations every year. WE respect their privacy too much to share any details, but Mentors and Role Models have survived some awful situations in their “overcomming”, a term we have adopted as a challenge of manhood.
Its about getting children to buy into cooperation and school work as something good for them, understanding that no one can make them do anything but be still and quiet with threats and rules, or marginalize the more powerful and independent spirits with suspensions and expulsions (the kind of men we need to lead the next generation). In sessions with staff, I ask a simple question, “Does anybody in here respect a wimpy man who just does what anybody tells him?” I've never had a positive response and it may be one of the most powerful questions I ask.
What Does iLEAP Measure (not LEAP which determines passing)
We have challenged the assumption of causality by asking the management to look at the iLEAP results and compare our boys performance to the girls in the same classes who did not participate and can serve as “control”. The data will tell. If our boys performed as well as or better than their female peers, we are not the problem.
I would also like to share another consideration with administrators who are trying to use iLEAP to evaluate teacher or school or in our case program performance. There is one essential problem with using the iLEAP to measure anything, unless there are significant incentives in place for the kids, many kids don;t really care about it because for some kids its just busy work. Actually, without some sort of carrot, the only test many kids really care about are the real LEAP tests in 4th and 8th grade, those that impact their moving with their social group. I remember the PSAT and how upset the vice principal was at St. Aug when I blew away the SAT after a dismal performance on the PSAT, he asked why and I told him, “I just didn’t feel like it that day and it had nothing to do with college or my grades." (mom didn't allow Cs). The smart kids know the difference.
It occurs to me that whenever we assume that children are cultured to take pride in such bench marks, as many educators and administrators are cultured having experienced good leadership as children, we make an egregious error, and may miss the real opportunities to get the kids on board. Its about answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” from the point of view of a child who because of environment may have no personal/cultural value for academic achievement. Our experience, however is that once you coax them over that line with bait, they experience the pride of doing well and don’t need bait anymore.
The LEAP test in fourth and eight grade would be a reliable tool, as the kids know their social group will leave them behind if they don't pass. I believe the stress these children experience around these test is inhumane, but you will get their best performance, a la my SAT scores.
Moving Forward from Four to Eight Campuses Next Year
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Video - 12 minutes
Making the Dream a Reality