From The Decatur Daily
by Deangelo McDaniel
PRICEVILLE — There was no single incident that prompted Priceville High School senior Jackson Morris to intervene.
He kept hearing about so many “issues” some Priceville Junior High students were facing and thought he could help.
Morris recruited three friends, and they formed the Just for Boys Club to mentor roughly 30 seventh- and eighth-graders.
The mentors don’t expect to change the world, senior Dustin Lorance said.
“But if we can give these kids just one small piece of advice that helps them, then we are succeeding,” he said.
The club meets monthly with no adult supervision and no advanced agenda.
“We talk about whatever they want to talk about, but we always end the meeting with some kind of fun activity,” Morris said.
Eighth-grader Eli Freeman and seventh-grader Tyler Shaneyfelt said they have benefited from the club.
“One of the first meetings we had was about common courtesy and respecting people,” Freeman said.
In another session, mentors taught the middle school students how to tie a necktie.
“I thought it would be hard, but they made it fun and easy, and I felt good about myself when it was over,” Shaneyfelt said.
Some studies suggest the real impact of the mentors’ work may not be known until the middle school students reach high school. A Harvard University study concluded that middle school students who see positive role models — whether teachers or other students — become more engaged and are less likely to drop out.
Joe Adams, of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama in Birmingham, wrote about similar findings in a report for Decatur City Schools last year.
He said middle school grades are important because, “This is when students are leaving the fairy tale and talking about being engineers and accountants.”
“We’re just trying to be that small link that gets some of these kids through tough times,” Morris said. “We went through some of the same things in middle school and want them to learn from our mistakes.”
Teacher Kim Morris is the club sponsor and Jackson Morris’ mother. She said the four seniors came to her and proposed the club.
“They wanted to be positive male role models,” the teacher said. “I have definitely seen a change in some of our students.”
During the first meeting, Jackson Morris, Lorance, Aaron Edwards and Nathan Collier wrote their cellphone numbers on a chalkboard and told the students to call whenever they need help.
All have received calls, and in some cases, received positive feedback from parents.
“I had a father to tell me the other day that his son is more respectful and helpful around the house,” Collier said.
The meetings are generally closed to outsiders so students can speak freely about issues they face.
But on Tuesday, the group agreed to let The Decatur Daily attend the meeting. The mentors talked about the importance of getting along with family and respecting parents.
“I know a lot of time you all may think your parents are trying to ruin your fun when they say things,” Lorance said. “That’s not the case. They have been through what you are doing and want you to learn from their mistakes.”
One student asked about getting along with an older sister.
“No matter what the situation is, you have to be the bigger man and walk away from a fight,” Edwards said.