Annistown 'distinguished gentlemen' stand out with behavior, leadership

Annistown 'distinguished gentlemen' stand out with behavior, leadership

If a gentleman speaks loudest when he's leading by example-- well dressed and displaying good manners-- then Annistown Elementary's Distinguished Gentlemen's Club has captured a whole school's attention without a word.

Dale Grant, standing center, meets with former members of the Distinguished Gentlemen's Club, now in middle school.

In its third year, this club for 5th grade boys is very selective, requiring an essay application and a teacher recommendation. Led by a positive role model, PE teacher and club sponsor Dale Grant, participants learn about leadership, manners, as well as dressing-- and learning-- for success. Students have distinguished themselves in and out of the classroom, showing more confidence, making more positive choices, displaying appropriate behavior, and succeeding academically.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” says Jeremiah, now a 6th grader at Shiloh Middle. “I’m beginning to plan for my career, and I’m getting A’s and B’s in all my classes.”

"College plans have become a priority," says Principal Lorraine Sparks. "They are learning to become leaders for the present and for the future."

Yolanda Anderson, a parent volunteer, agrees. “It takes the whole staff and parents to encourage the students, and I think Coach Grant and the administration have done a tremendous job. This program has helped to surround the boys with positive influences, and they are showing other boys that ‘you, too, can be a Distinguished Gentleman.’”

Former member Zachary, now at Shiloh Middle, says the club taught him how to be the man he wants to be. "We've learned about having good manners, having a firm handshake, making eye-to-eye contact, avoiding peer pressure, and always having a plan." he says. Click here for a Spring 2008 video segment about the program.

Seeing the success of the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club, the young ladies at Annistown were spurred to action. The Ladies of Distinction (LOD) Leaders of Tomorrow mentoring program began one year after the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club. LOD is open to girls, ages 9 to 11. They meet weekly to discuss leadership skills, and how to handle peer pressure and to build self-confidence.

“The girls at Annistown were so motivated and enthusiastic about having a program they could call their own that they started a petition,” says Candace Haynes, a teacher at Annistown and faculty advisor to LOD. “I felt that these young ladies, who were already such strong leaders, deserved to have a program such as this. Seeing their enthusiasm and drive motivated me to get involved.”

Founding members of the Ladies of Distinction,
now at Shiloh Middle, enjoyed learning how to
conduct themselves as young ladies.

Terri Allen, Annistown's counselor and an LOD faculty advisor, says, “After seeing one of our Distinguished Gentlemen elected as student council treasurer, our girls are envisioning themselves as leaders in middle school. With negative media influences, glorification of teen pregnancies and today’s stereotypical views of beauty, I feel that young girls need more positive opportunities to be empowered, demonstrate leadership, and increase self-esteem. The girls have said they feel more confident and that they think about their decisions before making them. They are getting along with others and their grades have improved.”

Like the first group of Distinguished Gentlemen participants, several participants of Ladies of Distinction have moved on to 6th grade, supported by their LOD experiences.

“I learned how to prepare for middle school,” says Madison, a 6th grader at Shiloh Middle. “I learned about having self-esteem, how to take care of myself, and how to be a young lady.”

“The ladies who have gone on to middle school have said that they really miss the closeness of the group,” Ms. Haynes says. "I mostly hear about how much they miss this camaraderie.”