Boys to Men program is what the city needs
Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School deals with all kinds of kids, some of whom have trouble buckling down and benefiting from what the school has to offer.
Enter Errol Randle, a Charleston Police officer, and Denny Westover, an elevator technician. A year ago, they brought the Boys To Men program to Charleston to mentor boys on the West Side, including one lad who was close to being expelled.
The mentors also included a trial lawyer, a U.S. marshal, an electrician, a church deacon, a construction worker and Ronald Layton, who is returning to Washington after heading the Secret Service office in Charleston.
In August, Layton took the group to Washington, where the boys toured the White House and had a rare tour of the Secret Service headquarters, which included an up-close look at the presidential limousine.
"These kids are the ones who were thrown out of all the other community centers," said Westover. "These were the tough deals.
"They were all tanking in school, but now they're looking at 3- and 4-point (cumulative grade point) averages.
"They've made quite a significant improvement. Some of these boys have won citizenship or leadership awards in their schools."
Similar reports of success come from Boys To Men programs across the nation. In 2010, Spring Valley Middle School in San Diego reported an average 57 percent improvement in the GPAs of its boys.
To honor Layton upon his departure and to celebrate the first anniversary of the program, the group held a ceremony on Monday. The Ronald M. Layton award went to two boys, including the one who was headed for expulsion, for their achievements.
All the participants likely will remember what older people have learned, sometimes painfully. Layton ticked off some of them:
Work harder. Learn everything you can. Dream big. Do great things; God didn't make anyone to be average. Always help others.
A student remembered a clear guide: Good choices lead to good things and bad choices lead to bad things.
Charleston is very fortunate to have so many men willing to go to bat for good things.