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Teachers at Memminger Elementary School in Charleston, South Carolina have set up an after school club with a difference!

Raymond Nelson and Kenneth Joyner run the Boys With A Purpose group in a bid to combat bad behaviour and keep their male students aged 7-11 away from the lure of crime in the area.

With a motto of ‘Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good’, the teachers educate the boys about etiquette by teaching them key social skills in order to help them to become polite young gentlemen.

Explaining why they set up the group, Kenneth says, ‘I grew up without my father and that was tough. I was raised by a single mum. She did a phenomenal job and I just always wanted to be able to do something to give something back.’

‘Some of our boys come from single family homes, some are staying with grandma because parents aren’t there, some have a mother and father in their homes and we act as a support.’

‘It doesn’t matter what background you come from, every boy needs a positive male role model in his life.

Raymond adds, ‘so we came up with the name Boys With A Purpose and we said that we would have the boys meet once a week at the school, have the boys dress and go over social skills, etiquette and proper manners.’

One of the key things that Raymond and Kenneth teach their students is the importance of always being polite and kind, not for thanks or praise, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Many of the boys in the club were previously disruptive or difficult in their other classes, and the teachers are proud to report that their behaviour has completely changed since they joined Boys With A Purpose.

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Raymond says, ‘we had some incidents where some of the boys would talk back to their teachers, get in fights, be disrespectful. So that’s why we’re trying to push the whole point of respect.’

‘Our definition of a gentleman is someone who respects themselves, respects others, polite to others. We teach our boys all the time that it’s not just about holding doors for ladies.’

‘The impact on how they feel when someone helps them or they help someone else lets us know that they’re grasping what we’re trying to teach them. They’re not just thinking about themselves now.’

What’s most heart-warming about the club is how impressed the boys parents are by the skills they have learnt.

Mum Tashana Mitchell says, ‘I absolutely love it and I am honoured that my son is a part of this wonderful, dynamic group. It warms my heart that these gentlemen take their time to mould our future men.’

Single mum Racquel Manigault adds, ‘for my son to have a positive role model it means a lot to me because I feel like boys need a positive role model.’

There’s no doubt that for these students, Boys With A Purpose has been a real lifeline, giving them second chances and positive role models to aspire to. So what are Kenneth and Raymond’s hopes for the future of the club?

Kenneth says, ‘we want to be able to get to a place where we are able to give scholarships to kids getting ready to go to college and sponsor them as well.’

‘It’s not hard for us to give up our time when we think about the hundreds and thousands or millions of kids who do not have that support and are being lost every single day to the streets, to drugs or violence. When we think about that, we think about saving one child.’

‘We’ve seen them do so many random acts of kindness, we’ve seen them help one another more, they’ve created a social atmosphere amongst themselves.

‘We say that if there’s hope in the future there’s power in the present.

What an incredible group!

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