Topeka High MALE Goup
Last year, Topeka High School Assistant Principal Rodney Johnson launched a new program for young men called the MALE Group. MALE stands for “Men Achieving Lifelong Education” and the boys involved meet weekly to learn how they can improve their lives and reach their goals. The MALE group was based on the book, “Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life,” by Baruti Kafele and is operated by Johnson, THS Social Worker Rene Valdivia, THS Paraprofessional Jeremy Palubinski and MALE Student President, senior Jeron Caraway.
One way the boys work to reach their goals is by dressing up once a week*. A dress shirt and tie helps the kids see themselves in the role of successful, accomplished young men. They also spend time covering various issues relevant to teen boys. They discuss ways to reach their goals and factors that may interfere with achievement. Right now the MALE group is learning more about etiquette, manners and conducting themselves like gentlemen.
Johnson encourages the young men to look within themselves to reach their goals. In fact, he has even placed a mirror in their meeting room to illustrate to the kids that success starts with themselves. “Be the best that you can be and try to grow each and every day. Then you’ll become who you always wanted to become. Whoever you see yourself as in the future, you have the tools right here at Topeka High to get there,” Johnson said.
Johnson also stressed the importance of choosing positive influences to achieve success and shared with the boys his own story of growing up. Before he graduated from high school, he became a father. Hanging around with boys who were headed nowhere (and, indeed, they did find themselves incarcerated as adults), Johnson’s single mother gave him an ultimatum: join the military or go to college. Intelligent, ambitious and motivated to support his young son, Johnson chose the latter, worked hard and eventually became a teacher and later an administrator at Topeka High. Now, he’s trying to help his students realize their potential.
But the boys at Topeka High School aren’t the only ones focused on their goals. This year, Leo Cangiani, Community Liaison at Scott Magnet, also formed a MALE group for the boys at his school. Twelve young men signed up and they meet weekly to discuss different topics, such as respect and treating others kindly. They also dress up every week.
This week the MALE group from Scott visited the MALE group at Topeka High. The older boys took the younger ones on a tour of the school and THS Football Coach Walt Alexander talked to the whole group about the importance of working hard in everything they do. A visit from THS Principal Dr. Linda Wiley and a snack of fresh-baked cookies capped off the morning.
School leaders who go the extra mile to help their students-- and students diligently working toward self-improvement-- make Topeka Public Schools a great place to be!!
*Note: If you would like to donate gently used boys and young men-sized dress clothes to the MALE group at Scott or THS, please message us
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