At Thomas E. Kerns Elementary in Greenville, South Carolina, some students are getting more than a textbook education and that starts with what you wear, how you wear it and how to eat.
Welcome to the “Gentlemen’s Club.” The school’s most sought-after group of 48 fourth and fifth graders.
“The Gentlemen’s Club is not just teaching you how to be a gentleman,” Elijah Shanks, a fifth grade student said.
“It teaches you to respect others and treat them how you would want to be treated,” Gavin Curtis, a 10-year-old fourth grader added.
“Love who you are. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t let anybody get in the way of that,” Shanks said.
“I think the Gentlemen’s Club impacts these young boys with a sense of belonging,” said Principal Mark Adams, who started the club last year.
“We look at it as preparation for academics. Preparation for behavior, preparation for citizenship, because it’s our responsibility to prepare them for the next level,” Adams said.
The group met every other Friday to learn real-life lessons from cleaning your neighborhood to watering plants.
“The food is super good,” one student said.
Twice a year the students got to enjoy a gourmet three-course meal.
“I think I’ve started to get in love with it,” one student said of the meal.
“This is so good. I think I’ve seen Jesus,” another student said.
Perched in a low-income neighborhood of Greenville, almost every student here qualifies for free or reduced-price meals.
For Curtis, a luncheon like today is a moment he will never forget.
“[There’s] only a couple times in your lifetime you’ll have that good of a meal,” he said.
Curtis wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. His classmate Elijah Shanks wants to write songs and the “Gentlemen’s Club” may have something to do with it.
“It gets me the confidence to actually do it because if i didn’t have the confidence, I would not be holding the pencil, and the pencil would not go on the paper,” Shanks said.
“I used to be a bad kid. I used to get in a lot of trouble,” Jose Hernadez Manuel told us. “But, when I heard of Gentleman’s Club, I joined. After the first meeting we had, I felt better … I started getting better grades.”
“Academic achievement in my opinion is mostly about hard work and commitment and I am proud of your accomplishments today and this year,” Adams said during a luncheon.
Hard work paid off indeed and what better way to celebrate?
“To the gentlemen of Thomas E. Kerns Elementary School. Cheers,” Adams said as he toasted the young students.