The Gentleman's Squad teaches young African American men respect, hard work

A group of middle school boys gather around a table, surrounding a messy pile of papers and notebooks. They tease each other about their unorganized notebooks, knowing its all in good fun.

"They're like a family. They're like all my brothers," said Duane Whorley, the only seventh grader in the group.

This small pack of mostly eighth graders at Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown make up the newest club at school: The Gentleman's Squad, also known as the G Squad.

"The reason why I started in the G Squad is not just to get my work done and get better in school, but to get closer to people in school that I wasn't that familiar with at first," said Travis Spence, one of the eighth graders in G Squad.

Teacher Tavon Mason, a former NFL player, started the club last school year. He brought on vocal music teacher Matthew Elliott to help him oversee the group.

"He wanted to start a group with young African American boys to try to help them do better in school, promote self awareness and understand that they can be better and do better in school," said Elliott.

The group meets once a week and are encouraged to wear dress shirts and ties that day. There are requirements to being in the G Squad.

"We recommend that they maintain a 2.0 GPA, no pants below the waist, make sure they have a belt on, they respect all their teachers respect their peers and get to class on time," said Elliott.

And what happens if they don't meet the requirements?

"Well, first we get talked to. Then after that we have to drop and do 20," Spence said.

It's easier to do what is asked of them rather than the push-ups and Elliott and Mason say the boys are improving everyday. The boys notice it too.

"My grades have improved a lot being here with G Squad," said Spence.

"Just in general it helps out with my behavior," said Whorley. "They sit down and like have time to help me out on homework"

"They give us a lot of help and give us more opportunities," said Khalil Moore, an eighth grader in the group.

The teachers say the G Squad allows them to build strong relationships with the boys and be role models in their life.

"If they need something during the school day they can come to me, I can help them if I'm available," said Elliott. "We let them know there's an easier way to get through. We've been where they are so we can help their path and make it a little bit easier with them."

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