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Building gentlemen: Program targets third-grade boys

Devin Jordan, president of the non-profit Beyond the Game, brought the national program to Fairless where third graders receive eight lessons on leadership, good manners and being a good citizen.

By Amy L. Knapp staff writer

Posted Jan 25, 2020 at 5:56 AM

On Friday, Fairless Elementary School third-grade boys received a crisp blue shirt and clip-on tie as part of the Guys with Ties program.

BREWSTER Assembled in the school cafeteria, the third-grade boys at Fairless Elementary School were excited as they waited for their name to be called to receive their new shirt and tie.

Once everyone had collected their shirts, they were told to put them on.

“Help each other,” Devin Jordan, a former Ohio State Buckeye and standout for the Tiger football team, said from the front of the room.

Some of the boys struggled to remove the clip-on tie from the shirt, others fumbled with the buttons, while others quickly navigated removing it from the hanger and slipping it over their shirts.

After some help from their friends and teachers, the boys showed off their crisp blue button-down shirts and a navy and yellow stripped ties.

For some, it was the first time they had put on a shirt and tie.

“I look awesome,” Jackson Fleming exclaimed as he twirled around for everyone to see. “I look like a successful business child.”

The shirts and ties were just the start of something big at the school. Something exciting. Something special.

This was the first meeting of Guys with Ties, a program that fosters leadership, good manners and good citizens.

“Remember it is an honor and privilege to be part of this group,” Jordan told the boys. “Remember our motto: look good, feel good and do good.”

Now that they looked good, it was time to get down to business.

Getting the guys

Michael Hearn, director of curriculum, instruction and special programs at Fairless, said the district has been discussing bringing Guys with Ties to the school for about two years.

Elijah Desmond, a Fairless alum and friend of Jordan, thought Fairless would be a great place for the program and suggested Jordan bring the program to his alma mater.

Confident the district could find funding for the project, Jordan ordered shirts and ties for the Fairless students.

Hearn turned to the community, securing funding from several groups, including Friends of Fairless, Fairless Alumni Association, Fairless Linebackers and the elementary PTO to bring the program to fruition. At least two more groups are considering contributing, he said.

It costs $100 per student, and Fairless officials wanted every third-grade boy — 43 in total — to be able to participate.

Hearn is confident when the donors see the outcome of the program, the funding stream will continue.

Talking to the students about Guys with Ties, Hearn stressed the community believes in them and is vested in their futures. The program, he said, will give the students skills that will aid in their success.

“They (community) truly see them (students) as the future,” Hearn said.

A key component to the program is a commitment from men in the school building to serve as mentors to the kids.

Jordan, president of his non-profit foundation Beyond the Game, will run the sessions with the students, but the volunteers are needed, he said.

“Every day they need to see a familiar face in the building that they know and respect and know that they are there for them,” he said. “The key piece is it is orchestrated by strong men.”

Assistant Principal Dan Nero, third-grade teacher Adam Amato and Hearn will lead the charge at school.

Building good men

Jordan loves the Guys with Ties program and what it does for the kids.

With their new “uniform,” the boys are feeling good and that translates to confidence, he said.

Through a series of eight sessions, members of the club learn values such as respect, good manners, making good impressions and being good citizens.

The students become leaders, he said.

“We show them by doing good they can have an impact on their school and community,” Jordan said.

The guys will participate in community service projects in and out of school, meet with guest speakers and learn things like dining etiquette and how to treat women.

Besides getting their shirts on Friday, the students learned about first impressions and firm handshakes.

“We want to stand out (in our shirt and tie),” Jordan told the guys. “We are leaders in the school. We are family.”

While there are lessons to learn, there is time to have fun, too, Jordan said, adding there are some surprises planned for the students.

On meeting days, the boys are asked to wear a nice pair of pants or jeans and upon arriving at school will put on their shirts and ties to wear throughout the day.

Each student was asked to sign a contract promising to uphold the standards of the group and to stay out of trouble.

“Our goal is to make them better gentleman,” Jordan said.

The Fairless Guys with Ties program joins Plain Local’s Middlebranch and Avondale schools as well as Alliance City Schools.

Jordan began a Guys with Ties program at an elementary school in Hilliard City Schools in Columbus this school year and officials, he said, plan to expand it to every third-grader in the district next year.

The former Tiger hopes to bring the program to other Stark schools, including his alma mater, Massillon.

Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or

On Twitter: @aknappINDE

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