Members of the “Boyz II Men” mentoring program at Blytheville Elementary School pose for a photo during a Tuesday afternoon session in the BES Gym. The program is led by directors Cashmere Sharpe and Charles Hobbs, and they have had ample support from men such as Curtis Walker, Jr., Steven Savage and Carlos Wells. Savage and Hobbs are pictured in the far row, at left, and Sharpe is pictured at the far right.
By DAVID COOKE
Blytheville Schools PR Dir.
Cashmere Sharpe back in October wanted to initiate some kind of mentoring program for the boys at Blytheville Elementary School, and only when Sharpe did some checking did he realize the boys had never had any real mentoring program designed just for them. So right after the Christmas break Sharpe and Charles Hobbs went to work, and the result is a “Boyz II Men” organization that continues to impress teachers and administrators even though it is just a couple of months old.
“Boyz II Men”, which began Jan. 19, is a mentoring program that includes such character skills as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. The goal, says Sharpe, is that by taking the behavior of certain “at-risk” students and mixing that with the students who have no such challenges, the reduction - even the elimination - of office referrals is very possible.
“I was listening to teachers talk about a school’s ‘gentleman’s club’ that they saw profiled on a Facebook page, and I knew our school didn’t have anything like that”, said Sharpe, a BES physical education and referral room teacher who is in his fourth year with the Blytheville School District. I then discussed this with Charles Hobbs (math/science teacher), and he told me that in the nine years he has been at BES he had never seen anything about that kind of club either.”
“Boyz II Men” meets each Tuesday afternoon at about 2:15 p.m. For boys in grades 3-5, in just a short time the membership has grown to 50 students. Hobbs and Sharpe started off the first session instilling in the boys the skill of simple handshakes with a question of “How are you?”, and always looking at the other person in the eye.
“That first week we just wanted to introduce them to the qualities of good character,” stated Hobbs. “Once we helped them with that, we went on other skills such as tying a tie. Tying a tie isn’t so much assisting the boys with an article of clothing as it is a type of behavior. If the boys can improve their behavior, that is one of the first aspects to becoming better students and eventually better citizens.”
“Part of things like handshakes and tying a tie lies in self-respect,” Sharpe went on to say. “I’ve also been amazed at how complimentary our teachers have been toward the boys; they just go out of their way to brag on them and talk about how positive these boys have become. This is something else that greatly builds their self-esteem.”
Sharpe and Hobbs have also had help from such volunteers as Curtis Walker, Jr., Steven Savage and Carlos Wells, who do whatever is possible in helping students tie ties and in being role models the boys can look up to.
“Through the ‘Boyz II Men’ program our young men are being taught personal responsibility, respect and lifelong lessons,” said BES principal Chanda Walker. “We are shaping and preparing our students for their future by involving them in a program that will equip them with the necessary skills to be successful in life. Although this program is in its early stages we already see a decrease in student disciplinary issues. I look forward to more success as a result of the students’ hard work and the support of the mentors that volunteer for this program.”
The students also have a role in the success or failure of “Boyz II Men”. A boy may be dismissed from the club for extreme disrespect or defiance toward other members or staff, and he can also be dismissed by receiving three office deferrals.
Both Hobbs and Sharpe have stated that behavior issues have significantly decreased since “Boyz II Men” started, enough that other persons have asked about their children being part of the program. “We have had to limit the club’s number to 50 simply because that is all we can effectively work with and hopefully influence right now,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe added that toward the end of school he hopes to have men come in as guest speakers for the students, sharing about how positive behavior affects them in their daily life. “If the “Boyz II Men” students can improve their behavior in the school, that will carry over into their lives in the community,” he said.
“What Charles and I want is for the boys to live the quality of lives they are capable of living. Seeing the kids improving and making themselves better is just the kind of reward we want.”