Spotlights
“Boys in the Good” grows student leaders at Randallstown Elementary
06/07/2016

Spotlight

When I walked up the stairs of Randallstown Elementary School, I could hear distant chatter coming from Mr. Wilmer’s room. The weekly “Boys in the Good” meeting had just started, and the group was eager to reflect on the past week.

I tried to sneak in the door and retreat to a corner to observe, but my presence didn’t go unnoticed. Instead, I got a warm welcome that included lots of smiles and waves hello. After Mr. Wilmer introduced me, the club members got back on task. They continued to share out about what they had learned in the week prior; how they used strategies they were taught during “Boys in the Good” sessions, and what they could work on in the week ahead.

“Boys in the Good” is a youth leadership program started at Randallstown by Mr. Da’Nall Wilmer, a teacher who has emerged as a leader in Baltimore County Public Schools when it comes to mentoring young men. The club focuses on giving, optimism, respect, originality, and determination.

“I first started a program called GQ Tuesdays, where I had the boys in our school dress up, but what I found was that students also needed other tools to put their best foot forward,” Mr. Wilmer said. “Along with that, I wanted to take it a step further. I wanted to teach these guys how to be gentlemen and leaders in school. We talk about goal setting and stress management, and I think meeting weekly keeps them aware and focused.”

Next on the agenda at this particular “Boys in the Good” meeting was a character-building activity. Each member received another club member’s name and had to write down what made that person a positive role model. At the end of the activity, the students shared what they wrote about their classmates. Their poise and compassion inspired me.  It takes a lot to stand up in front of the room and tell someone how much you admire them—especially for elementary school boys.

“The best thing about ‘Boys in the Good’ is that we get to show courage in doing our best and being leaders in the school,” said Grade 5 student Darrick Selvey. “We talk about feelings, show best behavior, and show what it means to be a leader.”

After the character-building activity, it was time for the event that all the club’s young members were waiting for, the tie-tying contest. Now that there was someone in the room with a camera at the ready (me), the kids were more animated than usual, and were definitely not camera shy. At the sound of Mr. Wilmer’s “3-2-1,” countdown—they were off. I snapped away furiously as excited shouts of “Done!” and “Finished!” rang out within about 15 seconds. Laughter and good-natured joking ensued, and even a “do-over” or two took place because the neck-in-neck race ended in a tie.

“Dressing up is my favorite part,” said the club’s president, Dakari Rolle. “It shows that I’m a leader and makes me feel more comfortable, more positive. It makes me feel better about myself.”

As the meeting was wrapping up, all I could think about was how amazing and powerful it was that these students could see themselves and each other as leaders and mentors. They voted on issues important to the club. They asked each other for opinions and advice. And when, on occasion, they got a little too off topic, they “checked” each other, too.

At the end of each meeting, the club recites the poem “If,” by Rudyard Kipling. Because they had done this so many times before, each student had the poem nearly memorized.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too,” many of them said in unison. And if one kid got stuck or forgot a line, the others helped him out.

“I love that we all get to work together and that we are all friends and spend time together,” said Alex Munyoki, the club’s vice president.

Spotlight

As I said goodbye to the boys, I thought about what Mr. Wilmer had accomplished. He “grew” student leaders within his schoolhouse and created an environment where students listened to each other, came to each other’s aid, and knew their own self-worth.

Perhaps we can all take a page out of Mr. Wilmer’s book. Imagine if we did…

To learn more about “Boys in the Good,” go to the program website at boysinthegood.com

By Natalie Allen, communications specialist, Communications and Community Outreach

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