The younger kids are, the harder it can be for them to find a safe space to grow and learn. This is even more difficult when the kids don’t have role models at home or even school to look up to. Not having positive role models can lead kids to figure things out on their own, which often ends up with them making a lot of mistakes and bad decisions that could hurt them in the long run.

A teacher in South Carolina saw this problem in his own community and decided to do something about it. The community began to react quickly and positively, ultimately leading to a group of nearly 60 students meeting at Memminger Elementary School every Wednesday for the “Gentlemen’s Club.”

Raymond Nelson knew part of being a teacher was helping children learn about life, but not all of his kids were getting the appropriate guidance outside school from parents or role models. Now, he brings valuable life lessons to his at-risk students.

Each Wednesday, students put on suits or other dress clothes and learn things like how to make proper eye contact, what a good handshake is, how to show respect to elders and how to open doors for other people. If students don’t have the proper dress wear for the club, Nelson has extra jackets, ties and vests from community donors.

Making sure young children have positive male role models is essential to their growth. This male role model doesn’t necessarily have to be a father, but should mentor the child in a father-like way. Father-child interaction actually promotes better perceptual ability and competency in children.

The better children are able to think on their own, the better decisions they’ll make later in life. And what children do early on can drastically affect the course of their lives. If they get involved with the wrong friends or rely on the wrong coping mechanisms, it’ll change who they become as adults. For example, youth drinking culture is huge, and a child under 15 who turns to drinking is five times more likely to become an alcoholic. Making sure that children have the right role models at home and at school is so important in keeping statistics like that from becoming the new reality for many children.

To keep that kind of future from happening to the kids Nelson interacted with every day, he created the “Gentleman’s Club” as his way of volunteering to help the kids get all the resources they needed to be successful individuals. Nelson earns no money from his time spent with the club — it is an entirely charitable donation of his time and resources to the children. His personal gain comes from the positive learning he knows he can give to the kids who attend.

Having good manners may not seem like something important enough to volunteer your time for, but as an educator, Nelson knows differently. Taking the time to teach a kid simple etiquette rules can lead them to better relationships and even future job opportunities. Success later in life is built on what children learned in their early years, which is what makes Nelson’s “Gentleman’s Club” so important.

The club became so successful at Memminger that the Charleston County School District wanted to encourage other local schools to begin clubs of the same nature. The importance of Nelson’s teachings made a real impact, and because he stepped up in his ability as a leader, other children will learn from positive role models in their schools.

Since the club began to spread to other schools, Nelson renamed it “Boys With Purpose.” However, the family environment and encouraging lessons haven’t changed, and the clubs will continue to impact children in the Charleston County area for many years to come.

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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