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Silverback Society News

The Power of a Man's Story _ Do Kids Care About the iLEAP

The Power of a Man's Story
We are at the part of the process in three out of four of our schools where the boys have had the opportunity to hear men tell their stories, perhaps the most powerful aspect of our program. First the Mentors, men who have been there every week for them, tell their stories which are so encouraging to boys who, because we are successful men, assumed that we “had it made”.

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.

Sharing our Sucessful Ways with Administrators and Faculties

In the past this very repeatable phenomenon has served as a learning opportunity for administrators and teachers, to the extend that the RSD has actually funded us to offer training to school staff at two of our schools. (We are willing to do it free, but good people understand our need to sustain the organization)

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)
Very recently in a troubling situation, our work has been accused if having a negative impact of iLEAP test scores. In this case we were scheduled once a week during a science class. And supposedly, low scores in that section of the iLEAP test (not the real LEAP that determines passage to the next grade) are because of that once a week meeting. I have challenged that assumption because to the depth of my soul I know we have a “multiplier effect” that compensates for loss class time with more effort and focus by our boys.

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
We have accepted our board's challenge to double our footprint next year, and in preparation we have trained twelve new mentors, who when combined with our guys with multi year experience we have more than enough men with the required year of experience to lead eight schools, and the recruiting of new mentors is moving forward even though we don't focus on recruiting until the end of the school year. Our dream of every boy having this opportunity is no longer a dream, but a plan, so we will grow from four to eight schools next year.

If you want us at your school please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and please plan to schedule P.E or an elective for your 8th grade boys between 10AM and 2PM next year so we won't be accused of hurting your kids. Those hours, because almost all of our volunteers have children and sometimes have pick up or drop off duties. We believe it is morally wrong to ask these men to sacrifice any of their family time or duties to solve a problem created by other men and women. We don't even have regular meetings, we have lesson plans and policies in place on our website so the only time we need to take out of a man's productive life is time spent with our boys.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Video - 12 minutes
In addition to our TV show, Ive just launched a 12 minute video on YouTube that shares our vision, entitled "Breaking The Cycle of Poverty" it concisely but thoroughly how we plan to change our community on eighth grade at a time. Just click on the link.

Our TV Show Silverback Society News, can be viewed by either clicking on this link or tuning into NO Access TV

Mondays at 7:AM or 7PM on Cox 8
Fridays at 12:30AM or 12:30PM on Cox 76
Fridays at 6:PM on Cox 99

The 7:AM Monday and 6:PM Friday slots are brand new, so thanks to NO Access TV for the air time.

Making the Dream a Reality
Thank all of you, for your support. It makes us feel less like a voice in the wilderness and more like a beacon of hope. I thank God everyday for the blessing of this work. Six years working with these boys and men, I have seen over the top of the mountain, and it is beautiful on the other side, but there's still the mountain.