- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Some would argue that being a gentleman has become a lost trait, but a Bate Middle School teacher and a Danville graduate who is now a police officer are working together to change that in a generation of students.

The Anchored Men’s Club has been meeting for close to two months now in the classroom of Robin Moler, special education teacher at Bate Middle School.

“As a teacher, you see kids that just need extra support,” Moler said. “They had potential at the same time.”

She saw an article spreading its way through Facebook, in which a South Carolina teacher started a club in an elementary school to help young boys become gentlemen and loved the idea.

So she reached out to Danville graduate and a former instructional assistant in the district, Daylen Morris, who is now a police officer with the Harrodsburg Police Department.

“I knew the quality of person he was,” she said. “Who better to help these boys?”

Morris said he was more than happy to help when he heard about what Moler was trying to do.

“I have a passion for the youth in Danville,” said the Danville High School graduate. “I never had a mentor, or someone to take us in under their wing and say, ‘This is what I went through, I wasn’t perfect, but you can change before it gets worse.’”

That’s what he hopes will happen for the students.

“We try to help them skip a step. Sometimes, you need that failure to help you appreciate success, but there are those life lessons that you just want them to skip over.”

Morris, who started his career as a Danville Police Officer, said he has witnessed first-hand how the decisions made by his family, friends and former classmates have affected some of them, good or bad. He hopes to ensure students don’t go down the wrong path.

“Maybe having this group will help,” he said.

Middle schoolers, Morris said, are a curious age group, and children in general seem to be growing up much faster. That’s why starting with this age group is important, especially when helping the students avoid things such as drugs.

That’s something eighth-graders Darrian Bell, Joseph Wilhite, Gabriel McKnight and Trey Dawson say they already see their classmates facing.

Bell said sometimes, when their classmates start down a bad road, they are scared to be different, it seems. But the young gentlemen all say they shouldn’t be.

“My dad always tells me to be different,” said Trey. “So I decided to be different and better. Even if being different now might make you seem lame, there’s better results (in the end).”

The young gentlemen are also taught some of basic things from Morris, Moler and the male role models they bring in to assist, like accountability, overcoming adversity and good time management. Graduates like Trystan Ford and Jeffrey Guest have been to the school, and John Roush, president at Centre College, is scheduled to come meet the students, too.

One week, eighth-grade students used Google Hangouts to speak with Shawn Easler, a former colleague of Moler’s, who owns his own company, Flow Aesthetics. He shared with the young gentlemen how their “team” consists of the individuals they choose to surround themselves with: friends, a girlfriend, mentors, and others; all of whom will influence them.

He also reiterated to the young gentlemen that social media matters to colleges and employers. And he told them that behind every strong man is a strong woman.

That’s something they admit they have thought about - young women.

“I don’t want to date a girl that’s ‘fast,’ that you might have for a week and then she’s gone. I want a girl that will last forever,” Bell said.

SWAG, a phrase that has become synonymous with confidence, is the group’s motto and stands for She Wants A Gentleman. Morris selected the phrase, which encourages the young men to be gentlemen.

“It’s a lost trait - no one prides themselves on being a gentleman,” Morris said. “You rarely ever see anymore an opening of the door, allowing the woman to walk on the other side from the road.”

And often, he said, men are influenced to do things by or for a woman. He hopes the club encourages the students to go after the right kind of women, the kind who truly want a gentlemen, and to do it in the right way, although not too soon.

He recently talked to the students about not asking out a girl using social media.

“Don’t do that,” said Rubyn Branch, a junior at Centre College, who was visiting the club.

His teammate Nate Sparks agreed. The Centre student athletes first came with the rest of the football team one week, then decided to return on their own.

Branch and Sparks said they thought everything the club was about was just “awesome.”

“We had a mutual feeling that we wished we’d had an experience like this in middle school,” said Sparks. “We’re going to keep coming back as often as we can.”

“I love investing in the younger generation,” Branch said. He is also on the school’s track team and helps with a summer camp for high-schoolers.

A native of Memphis, Branch said he has witnessed what happens when kids go “down the wrong path” because of bad influences.

“I don’t want to see that happen to kids here, or anywhere. It’s important to try to be important in someone’s life and impact their life positively,” he said.

That’s why the college students continue to come back.

“These types of things can make an impact on someone’s life. It’s important,” Sparks said. “When I first heard about it, I just thought it was an amazing program. I definitely think it’s something that should be able to grow.”

Both guys said they are also learning a lot from the students, too.

“It’s another way to still grow as a person,” Branch said.

The young gentlemen said they are learning, too.

“Ever since I’ve been going to club, I’ve been more motivated to do the right things,” Wichita said. “I want to make sure that, through life and through everything, that I’m on the right path and I’m not doing things I’m not supposed to be doing. I want to make sure I’m doing it the right way to get where I need to be.”

In his first visit, McKnight said talking to the group and to Easler had opened his eyes.

“It really changed the way that I look at the people I hang out with and what I might need to change with the circle I have,” Gabriel said.

He was invited by Bell, one of the side effects of the club, which Moler said had been growing since the launch.

“He knows a lot about me and what my past is like,” said Gabriel of Bell. “He was looking out for me, to get me in here and help me out with what I’ve got going on.”

“I look forward to this. I’ve got three favorite days of the week - Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesday, I go to First Forward; Wednesday, I go to church; . and Thursday I go to this,” Bell said.

Eventually, Morris said, they are going to encourage the young gentlemen in the club to dress up on Thursdays.

“If you look good, you are going to feel good and you are going to act better,” Morris said. “If you feel like you are confident, you look better and your performance goes up.”

Moler said money was donated from the Little Cherubs Sale, which is going to be used to purchase ties and maybe polos for the students.

Morris and Moler said they have noticed that the students are more confident and are interacting more. The eighth-graders, especially, are asking more questions, as they gear up for high school, and are taking an interest in the younger students.

“They’re a good group. We try to get more to join up,” she said.

Bell has thought about that, too.

“If we can get almost 50 percent of the boys in our class to keep this (club) and keep it all the way to the end of high school, you might even take it into your college, just think of how big it will grow and how many gentlemen there will be in the country. Or the world, even,” Bell said.

___

Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger, http://www.centralkynews.com/amnews

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