(Photo: SUSAN TUSA/Detroit Free Press)
After tiring of seeing so many of his students engaged in violent and irresponsible behavior, Detroit elementary school principal Ronnie Sims gave them an activity. He started an after-school program called the Gentlemen’s Club where he gives his boys instruction on his three “R’s”: respect, responsibility and reasoning.
"I kept seeing a lot of the boys get in trouble and not want to own up to the responsibility of being in trouble," Brenda Scott Academy’s principal told the Detroit Free Press. "I'd catch them fighting and their first words out of their mouths are, 'I didn't do nothing!' And there's blood on their knuckles! 'The boy's nose is bleeding! How did you get blood on your hands?' And they say, 'He ran into my fist.' It became the norm for them to do that. I said, 'Something's wrong.' "
Now, the 80 boys of the Brenda Scott Academy’s Gentlemen’s Club gather twice a week in the gymnasium and learn to properly shake hands, maintain eye contact and dress neatly. In addition to Sims’s revamp of the three “R’s”, boys are also introduced to Sims’s four T's; Take Time To Think. And there is a dress code: older boys are required to wear jackets and all the boys must don ties; the tying of which is a part of the club curriculum itself.
"What I hope is that these boys will break the cycle of male irresponsibility," said Sims. "I want them to make better choices."
Student Chino Williams told Riley that the club has already helped to shape his ideas about success.
“[Mr. Sims] taught us that we can do anything we want to do in life as long as we put our minds to it," he said. "We can say that we want to do something, but he's teaching us that ... you have to do something about it. I want to be an FBI agent."
And Chino’s goals are steeped in more than just personal achievement and he says his choice of profession has a larger purpose.
"I think I can change the lives of young Black people around here," he said. "Some young people want to be thugs and not in school and have guns. And I think we can have better days around here if I can get more young people to be better than they are now and be better than their parents."