Watch out, Sandusky High School. Next year you're going to have some gentlemen on your hands!
A team of Jackson Junior High employees have groomed a group of boys who earned their right into the Gentlemen's Club.
Principal Scott Matheny said the idea came from a professional development workshop he attended.
"There was a speaker who formed the Gentlemen's Club in Chicago," he said. "I simply carried his idea and concepts here."
Matheny asked teachers to nominate boys they knew who could benefit from "extra attention in positive pursuits and then opened the opportunity to the remaining student body.
"Surprisingly, 10 of the 12 boys nominated by the teachers also filled out applications, and two boys who had great academics and extracurricular participation also completed applications," Matheny said. "We now had our 12 Gentlemen."
Matheny said the staff was initially leery of pulling the concept off, but quickly embraced most of the members.
"We did have several members who had missteps along the way and had to have discussions or consequences delivered," he said. "Most of the members behaved admirably. Several were already strong academically when they came to the club, and we held them as role models for those that struggled."
Matheny used grant money provided by the Wightman Weiber Foundation to buy blue ties embossed with 'GC' on the bottom for the boys to wear every Wednesday with a white button-down shirt.
"When we met for the first time and tried to describe what we wanted to do, the young men were reluctant to throw out many ideas about what they wanted the Gentlemen's Club to be," Matheny said. "I asked them to think it over, and we met one week later. "
Choosing to become involved in community service projects, members helped out at various events throughout the school year and even stopped by the Ohio Veterans Home to play bingo, balloon volleyball and share stories.
"Being at the elementary schools was pretty cool," Javonte Johnson said. "It was cool to go back and see our teachers."
"The veterans home was awesome," Keith Koehler said. "The guys were fun to talk to. They made us crack up laughing."
To reward the members for positive behavior, Matheny and co-advisors Dustin Sharp and Bob Huston allowed members to suggest ideas for after-school field trips, which were covered by grant funds and business donations.
"Our goal was to make the community in which we live a better place to be and also offer opportunities outside of the community for our members who might not get those same opportunities without their involvement with the Gentlemen's Club," Matheny said.
These outings included a trip to see the "3 Doctors," a Cleveland Cavaliers game and Indians game.
"A lot of us had never went to a game before," Keagen Russell said.
The boys were exposed to several life skills including etiquette, which they tested at various restaurants; interviewing skills with a representative from the Ohio Business College; and business tips from a local businessman who grew up in Sandusky.
Matheny's favorite story comes from a trip to Olive Garden, the group's first restaurant experience together.
"Once they seated us, several families that were seated in the same section asked to be moved," Matheny said. "I guess a group of 12 teenagers gave them the impression that they about to have their dinner ruined. The boys were amazing. They could not have been more polite and well behaved."
Matheny said the story of the Gentlemen's Club is not without "heartache."
"While the majority of our members have performed admirably, we have had to suspend privileges for periods of time for several members," he said. "A big part of the requirement for being a representative of Jackson and the GC was respect. When there were issues where the members lost that perspective, we took action to retain the integrity of the group while still allowing the opportunity to correct their mistakes and remain a member. Once suspended, the member must talk to the group to tell them why they had their privileges suspended and then ask the group to reinstate them. This is not meant to punish the member -- it is meant to allow the GC members to control their club."
At the end of the school year, students were concerned about leaving the group.
"We met in May to discuss upcoming events, and the members asked us if there was any way that they could stay with the program at SHS," Matheny said. "I told them if we found a way to make that happen that the expectations would be the same: Wednesday shirts and ties, and classroom and other behavior expectations still would be in place. We have made arrangements with a staff member at SHS to take over the GC, and next year we will change our name to the Sandusky City Schools Gentlemen's Club."