E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School fourth-graders Cohan Racer, from left, Joey Pendleton, Mekkai Steadman, and fifth-grader Adrian Craig make a lunch place setting during a Boys Into Gentlemen meeting on Thursday.

FRONT ROYAL — E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School has started a unique club.

The Boys Into Gentlemen club (BIG) introduces fourth and fifth-grade boys to opportunities for leadership, mentoring, and community involvement by learning about different personal and social skills, including group dynamics, etiquette, and career exploration through lessons, guest speakers, and hands-on activities.

Rodney Brown, a special education teacher at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary, said that the idea for BIG came about last year.

“Last year, I noticed that there wasn’t a program for young men,” Brown said. “There was a program for girls called Girls on the Run, but there was nothing for the males. I drafted an idea. It started as a page and it ended up four or five pages that were kind of giving [the boys] different roles and responsibilities.”

Brown said that the program gained steam when Shane Goodwin, who serves as an assistant principal at E. Wilson Morrison, came along.

“Even though I’m new here, we both have the same passion and recognized that in each other once we had a conversation about what we wanted to see with the boys,” Goodwin said. “We really wanted to involve the community and we really wanted to involve kids who had real leadership potential.”

Goodwin said that he and Brown presented the idea to the Warren County Education Endowment in hopes of getting funding for the club.

“We started with that group and they were really excited about the idea,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said that the 10 boys in the club were selected by their teachers.

“We basically said to fourth and fifth-grade teachers to submit any name of any boy you think that shows leadership potential and can benefit from a program like this,” he said. “We asked the teachers to whittle the list down and then work with parents, grandparents and whoever the kids lived with to get permission and kind of kicked it off from there.”

The club focuses on a theme each month to help develop their social and personal skills. Brown said that February’s theme focuses on the individual and ties in their lessons each Thursday with the theme.

“Our overall theme is influence and what does it mean to be influential,” Goodwin said. “Everyone shows influence, but sometimes it’s negative. We want our kids to have the opportunity to be exposed to positive people who have influence in a positive way. Our hope is our boys grow up, go to middle and high school, go to college and get whatever career they want and come back to this community and be influential people in a positive manner.”

Goodwin said that the creation of BIG has influenced other schools in the area to adopt a version of the program.

“They would ask about how to start the process and what criteria we used,” he said. “We’d be glad to share our ideas that we have started. We can certainly learn from others and they can benefit from where we began. It’s a program that can really connect schools with communities.”

Even though the club only started in January, the boys of BIG feel they have already improved.

“I wanted to learn to be etiquette and be a gentleman,” said Joey Pendleton, a fourth-grader at E. Wilson Morrison.

“I’ve really wanted to be a gentleman, and I feel like I’ve improved,” said Adrian Craig, a fifth-grader at the elementary school.

The boys have really enjoyed meeting members of the community and doing activities like learning how to make a table setting. As far as growing the program, Pendleton recommended a contest to make a better BIG logo. Fourth-grader Mekkai Steadman {/span}recommended doing more crafts and meeting more influential people.

“I don’t think this will happen, but I would like Lebron James to come,” Steadman said.

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