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PATERSON, NJ – In April, a boys’ school in Paterson was ranked among the worst in the state. But a few months later, the district says things are turning around. They take a unique approach that taps into the hearts and minds of these young men.
âI’m in third grade and I’m grateful to my friends and family,â said one student.
Fifty-five boys, in grades three to seven, begin their day at Paterson’s Young Men’s Leadership Academy.
âMy name is Xavier Reed. I am in the fourth year. I’m grateful that I wake up every day so I can come to school and get the education I need, âsaid another student.
âI mean it warms your heart,â said mom, Stephanie Brown. “It’s so sweet to hear what they’re grateful for.”
With every expression of gratitude, Principal Vernon Maynor is the plant of the school. He says it represents life and their community.
The pupils answer each other with a sentence in Swahili which Maynor translated as âwe are all in it or completely. “
âWe agree with what the person is saying,â Maynor said.
Students then go to their respective classrooms where they join their teacher in ârestorative circlesâ. Here they discuss life issues and topics.
If the students get into trouble or have a fight, they are sent to the âpeace roomâ rather than the principal’s office.
âJust the other day a young man, his father was in the hospital,â Maynor said. “And we had to connect, because my dad was too.”
Just as a hungry child cannot concentrate in class, an emotionally distraught child will also have difficulty.
These new tactics, implemented in September, are ultimately aimed at helping boys improve academically.
âSocial and emotional development is very important. Especially when you’re dealing with young men, âMaynor said. âOnce you’ve made that connection with each other, then you can start building it in the classroom. “
Teachers also received additional training last summer. A special committee was formed to fight absenteeism and added support to the program.
This year’s reading and math tests are still ongoing, but the goal of increasing students’ reading by one grade before the end of the school year has already been met.
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