Sunday, December 28, 2003

Boys camp at school, learn from mentors

By Denise Smith Amos
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MOUNT AUBURN - Hours after Vine Elementary dismissed classes Dec. 19, parents drove into its snow-slicked parking lot and dropped off their sons at the open school.

The children - about 50 boys in the fourth to eighth grades - were led into the gym and told to sit in a square.

Interspersed were a dozen men. Some in traditional African garb; others in business attire or overalls.

A few of the men stood, one by one, and spoke about manhood and adult responsibility.

Earnest McAdams, a city of Cincinnati prosecutor, urged the boys not to rely on the usual measures of a man.

"Success isn't the kind of money I make, the car I drive or where I live. It's not that I'm a lawyer," he said.

"Know what's going to be success for me? When I die, if somebody is going to say, 'He was a good man ... He took care of his family.'

"It's not the title you got; it's what you do ... You've got all the title you're ever going to need - man."

That's how the first sleepover for boys began at Vine Elementary.

Schools with challenges

Vine is a Cincinnati public school with challenges. Drawing students from Over-the-Rhine and Mt. Auburn, it teaches mostly African-American children, many from poor, single-parent homes. It's in a high-crime neighborhood.

The school recently underwent a mandatory "redesign" because of poor performance on state tests, switching all its teachers, administrators and curriculum.

The Vine Male Coalition, a year-old group of fathers and mentors who meet weekly at the school, was one of the few things that remained. They organized the all-night event, called the Young Men's Summit, for boys to camp indoors and get to know some male role models better.

"Young men need guidance from males to demonstrate what qualities it takes to be a man," says Tyrone Hall, a coalition leaders and coordinator of the summit.

Hall is a consultant with Ohio Family and Children First Council, a statewide coalition of social service agencies working with schools and families.

Hall said the event was so successful, he plans to take it to other Cincinnati schools.


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