I am sleepless tonight as the full impact of our work this year begins to settle into my mind. So rather than toss and turn I feel compelled to share with you my sense of impending hope regarding the fruit of our labor this year.
“Tipping point” is an appropriate phrase to describe the results of our work this year. Because of the ongoing commitment of our experienced Mentors and the addition of enthusiastic new recruits we are going to be able to engage boys in the last year at seven elementary schools in New Orleans. What woke me up was the realization that this means one third of the boys entering high school next year will believe that it is “cool to do well in school”.
This year we are engaging a social scientist to study our impact and put it in scientific and institutional terms but the real work is simple in my mind, shifting enough boy's attitudes so that a boy who is cooperative and does well in high school is respected rather than victimized or ostracized for the effort. So yes, the impact of our Mentors and curriculum on the individual child's attitude toward learning and academic achievement may improve the outcome for that child and those who will depend on him in the future, but the more schools and boys we engage the easier and more socially comfortable it becomes for all children to be high achievers in high school.
In effect the work of the Silverback Society is making it “cool to do well in school”, something that happens almost immediately on each campus when we engage the eighth grade boys the week after Thanksgiving, but as is settling on my mind in lieu of sleep tonight, next year 25 – 30 percent of the boys entering the freshman year of high school will have the same attitude. The work we do is creating a safe haven for academic achievement, a peer group that embraces giving respect to get respect and understands the need to become something.
Pastor Wardsworth and I understood the power of the group dynamic in the microcosm of our first school, that working with an individual boy was asking him to swim upstream against peer pressure but that engaging all the boys in eighth grade gave them a safe haven and reinforcement for cooperation and achievement.
Last week as I had a training session with a troubled young man who was new on a high school campus, my awareness of our men's impact really hit home. I showed him the Silverback Society booksack and asked him if he had seen any boys with the book bag. When he answered in the affirmative, I handed him my card and was comfortable telling the kid to seek out the Silverbacks on his campus and tell them I sent him and that you need some friends. It will be cool for him to do well in school.
So even children who aren't Silverbacks will benefit from the work our men do. After this year's effort there will be enough boys in high school so that any child who wants to achieve will find a group that will accept them... and respect them.
So, if someone ask you what the Silverback Society does, just tell them that our Mentors and curriculum of the Silverback Society make it “cool to do well in school”... and that will change the future of New Orleans.
Our annual “Gathering of The Silverback Society” is this Wednesday, October 16th at LeMusee, 2336 Esplanade Avenue. Men who are happy with their lives and have an hour a week to change our city by engaging its future please come and consider joining our movement. Beginning after Thanksgiving you will work with a team that has an experienced leader and have the full support of our organization. You will enjoy what you do.
Please forward this to any man you think might be a good example for boys in eighth grade.