The Learning Curve: Building Community

TAMPA -

WUSF's education series, The Learning Curve, continues as we check in at Tampa's Just Elementary. A vast majority of its students come from poor families and almost 100 percent of them are minorities. Deemed a failing school by the state, school staff and teachers are focusing on creating a sense of community so kids want to come to school.

Principal Tricia McManus started the school year with three goals aimed at improving the failing grade. They are hands-on instruction, using data to hone learning and creating a sense of community.

One of her most valued helpers is Gloria Brooks, a lunchtime aide who donates countless hours to help at school functions.

In September there was the All Pro Dads' breakfast and the induction ceremony for the Gentlemen's and Ladies clubs. Teachers volunteered and were trained as mentors. The staff selected 31 boys and 31 girls to become members.

As part of their induction, the boys were given ties and the girls stoles. They must dress in white shirts with their ties or stoles for their weekly club meetings.

That's when the young members learn etiquette, do community service and go on outings like learning to play golf or eating at a fancy restaurant.

The idea behind the club is to change how a youngster sees himself or herself and how the outside community perceives them.

Stephen Peters founded the first Gentlemen's Club. His success was feature on Oprah. Now, more than 100 schools host Gentlemen's Clubs. Peters recently spoke to club members at Just Elementary.

That's when Peters gave club members his standard challenge. He promised to give each club member a $100 bill if they have perfect school attendance through the end of the school year.

Then came his real lesson. Peters said, 'The money is secondary. Start thinking about your education and you can have as much money as you want.'

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