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West students opt for ties to help build character

West Elementary School fourth-grade students, from right, Javori Abraham, Branden Paige, Daiquiri Gaylor, Tyler Lyles, Kaidon Allen, Josiah Chenier and Nilay Patel walk to class from their Physical Education class. Starting in Oct. 2014, male students at West were allowed to wear ties and dress clothing to school instead of their uniform as a part of the school’s Few Good Men Program. The program, which was started by teachers Bert Smith and Roderick Holmes, serves as a male mentorship program to give boys at the school positive visions of men. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

West Elementary School fourth-grade students, from right, Javori Abraham, Branden Paige, Daiquiri Gaylor, Tyler Lyles, Kaidon Allen, Josiah Chenier and Nilay Patel walk to class from their Physical Education class. Starting in Oct. 2014, male students at West were allowed to wear ties and dress clothing to school instead of their uniform as a part of the school’s Few Good Men Program. The program, which was started by teachers Bert Smith and Roderick Holmes, serves as a male mentorship program to give boys at the school positive visions of men. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Susie B. West Elementary School staff members hope to implement character within its male students with a swing of a necktie.

Susie B. West Elementary teacher Roderick Holmes and P.E. teacher Bert Smith organized a mentorship program in October known as “A Few Good Men,” where male students in the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade wear neckties and dress shirts every Thursday to build character.

“We are trying to do things such as behavior modification, talk to them about hygiene and share different things a male will need as they get older,” Holmes said. “We try to be positive role models for them and shed light on things some female teachers might not be able to talk about.”

The students have the option to wear neckties, but Holmes said he has seen a lot of participation.

If the students do not have a necktie or if it’s too hot, they can wear a dress shirt, Smith said.

“When we first started back in October, we had a few gatherings with the fifth-graders to introduce the program,” Smith said.

Smith said third- and fourth-grade classes were included afterward.

Holmes said the program is summed up as character education.

West Elementary School fourth-grade student Daiquiri Gaylor adjusts his tie after taking it off for physical education class. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

West Elementary School fourth-grade student Daiquiri Gaylor adjusts his tie after taking it off for physical education class. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

“We want them to do things they wouldn’t normally do while people are not looking,” Holmes said. “We want to give them guidance and offer them people to come to because sometimes they feel like they can’t express themselves.”

Since the program began,  Holmes said a great change has taken place in the schools.

“Behavior and referrals have decreased,” he said. “Although we do this program every Thursday, the students come looking forward to it. It has given them motivation.”

Holmes and Smith said they are accountable for their students.

Whether it’s accountability for academics or behavior, we have to be there for them and it’s a great part of what’s going on now, Holmes said.

Smith hopes the program will help male students grow up to become more than an average man.

“It takes a special young boy to grow up and be a gentlemen,” Smith said. “Any boy can grow up to be a man. That goes in with their character, their manner and their respect.”

Above all, Holmes and Smith hope the program will help young males to learn to respect themselves and others.