Monday, June 30, 2014

Shifting Mindsets…the story of the Junior G.E.N.T.s Fraternity

As a Chicago public school teacher working in an impoverished, food-desert and crime-ridden neighborhood, it is very easy to have a dismal or bleak outlook about the future of your students.  It’s also very easy to get caught up in pointing out all the wrong that’s happening in the neighborhood, and not acknowledging the good.

With all that said, I made an endeavor this school year to highlight more of the positive and inspirational aspects of my job and of my students.  In keeping that frame of mind, it unveiled an amazing group of six 4th grade boys who came together as a fraternity called the Junior G.E.N.T.s and are recognized as scholars, servants and leaders in the school community.

The Junior G.E.N.T.s was birthed out of focusing on the males in 4th grade who have scholastic success and consistently make the honor roll; it was birthed with intent to focus on the the boys who do value upstanding character development and make earnest attempts to consistently make good choices instead of putting excessive energy into the ones that do not follow rules or try to improve their character.  

Through the formation of the Junior G.E.N.T.s I watched six boys unite as brothers, affirmed in their pursuits for academic excellence, community service, and a dedication to helping make their school a better place.

 I watched a new paradigm of  “cool” be set for young black boys growing up in the south side community of the school where I teach. The results were in…taking your grades seriously, being a community servant and school leader is officially “cool”, disrespect, lack of motivation/drive for academics is “lame”.

 This has done wonders for the confidence of the current G.E.N.T. members and has been motivating and aspirational for the non-G.E.N.T. boys in the grade.

So far the boys have done a ton of things to make their presence known. They have hosted a G.E.N.T. week where they show the qualities of what it means to be a G.E.N.T. (generosity, eloquence, nonconformist and tenacious). 

They have cleaned up trash around the field and surrounding area of the school grounds. They have tutored students in math, reading and social studies. They have hosted “GET FIT WITH THE GENTS” in which they lead exercise and healthy physical exercise classes for other students. The G.E.N.T. brothers have even contributed a positive social outlet component as they have performed stepshows and hosted G.E.N.T Jam parties for their grade peers.

All in all it’s been rewarding to watch them grow and thrive. I am certain these G.E.N.T.s will continue to do bigger and better things in the upcoming school years and serve as a role model for their community.


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