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Bright Elementary's Band of Brothers Brings Male Bonding to Students(October, 2007)


band of brothers volunteer and student FISD volunteer Tim Walsh with studentEvery elementary school teacher and principal will tell you that men in leadership roles are essential for the success of a school. Boys and girls need to see and experience members from both genders modeling mature, caring behavior, says Bright principal Susie Graham. But because elementary school has traditionally been the career choice of women, the handful of dedicated men Graham has hired over the years are stretched thin when it comes to having personal time to spend with the boys at Bright Elementary.

“Our coach and our male teachers do a great job. You can really see the kids responding to a male leader at the school. But some of our boys need some personal attention outside the classroom or the gym. They need a man who will talk to just them, listen to them and do the little things such as watch them shoot hoops or climb on the playground equipment - things a big brother or dad would do,” said Graham.

That is where Graham and Assistant Principal Terri Walsh found themselves last year, until Graham and Walsh learned of a program for mentors specifically aimed at boys – specifically boys who may come from homes where a father isn’t present.

“I got the idea for Band of Brothers after having lunch with Susie (Graham) and Dr. Paul Slocumb, Author of Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. He told me about Jonathan Shepard, Assistant Principalat Crowley Elementary School, who started a program called Band of Brothers on his campus after reading the book and attending staff development with Mr. Slocumb. I contacted Mr. Shepard and he shared his entire program with me and gave me permission to use any or all of it. Susie and I looked at our students and tweaked it to fit the needs of our campus,” Walsh said.

The Bright team explains what each child needs from his Band of Brothers mentor. A training video and class is required before volunteering with a child, she said. Each volunteer is also required to have a criminal background check.

Walsh says sometimes it may be just shooting hoops with a child but often it is listening, she says. She handles much of the discipline issues at school and says often kids just need a little extra attention to turn negative behavior into positive behavior.

The program started out with eight volunteers but has grown to about 25 men who are visiting Bright kids regularly – to talk, shoot hoops or read a book together. The men come from area churches such as Preston Ridge Baptist Church, St. Phillip’s Episcopal, which held services at Bright for several years, and from various departments at Frisco Independent School District. St. Francis Catholic Church has expressed an interest in sending some volunteers. Though faith-based organizations are an excellent source of potential volunteers interested in working with students, volunteers do not discuss religion with students, Walsh said.