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Secret Spies and Special Bowties

Since January, a special society has been meeting at Success Academy Bronx 4 on Wednesday afternoons. Its members wear special blue-and-orange bow ties. During the day, they can been seen opening doors for scholars, carrying books and materials for teachers, and helping classmates with their schoolwork.

Meet the Dapper Young Gentlemen Society — 25 boys who are committed to being exemplary members of the school community. These second graders regularly perform community service and serve as role models for their younger classmates. I am so impressed with them because they exemplify the definition of a real gentleman: someone who is chivalrous, courteous, and honorable.   

The Dapper Young Gentlemen Society was the brainchild of Business Operations Manager David Marositz and Education Manager Kyle Birstler. Mr. Marositz has worked in schools where bullying by older boys was an issue, and he wanted to head off any such tendencies at SA Bronx 4. He and Mr. Birstler decided to form a club where our oldest boys could learn about leadership, positive friendships, and healthy habits, so they could have a positive influence on younger scholars.

The club was open to all second grade boys. To join, the boys and their families had to sign a contract in which the scholars agreed to take responsibility for their actions and treat others—teachers, parents, fellow scholars—with respect. They also pledged to be models for their peers in following all school and classroom rules. Each Dapper Young Gentleman would receive a special bow tie—but the boys had to earn it. Simply abiding by the contract would not be enough. They had to display gentlemanly behavior as well.

At their first meeting, Mr. Birstler and Mr. Marositz worked with scholars to define just what gentlemanly behavior is. Then, throughout every school day, club members were expected to perform gentlemanly acts of kindness, such as opening doors for classmates and assisting teachers. Faculty “spies” stationed around the school monitored their behavior. Within two weeks, the club’s 25 second-graders had all earned the signature neckwear.

Then, throughout every school day, club members were expected to perform gentlemanly acts of kindness, such as opening doors for classmates and assisting teachers.

Every Wednesday, the gentlemen meet to give one another shout-outs for doing good deeds and discuss what being a good leader means. They set goals to improve their behavior if they fall short. They also entertain special guests. Recently, a New York City police officer and a firefighter visited the club to discuss their experiences serving the community. During a visit from a chef, the gentlemen prepared and enjoyed a meal of granola mix, pasta, and organic salad while learning about healthy eating habits and table etiquette.

I have seen our scholars benefit from their participation in this club. Scholars who used to become easily frustrated in challenging social situations have developed self-awareness about what triggered their reactions and learned to take ownership of their behavior, so they now respond more appropriately to difficult situations. Scholars who used to come to school late now arrive on time. The club helped one shy scholar break out of his shell and become more social. He now enjoys participating in class and conversing with classmates. Recently, he was spotted assisting a younger scholar with his school uniform.

I am so proud of the transformations we’ve seen in our SA Bronx 4 boys and grateful to Mr. Marositz and Mr. Birstler for going beyond Z on behalf of these scholars. I can’t wait to see these young men help mentor next year’s second grade gentlemen!

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