The leaders of a mentoring program for young men are looking forward to its local expansion, and the young men in the program said their participation has already changed them in positive ways.
Jordan Bruner said, "This program teaches you life skills you need to know," adding after a service activity, "you think of the good in people now." Bruner, a senior at Jefferson City High School, is in the Kappa League of the Jefferson City Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.
Kappa Alpha Psi is a predominantly African-American fraternity, and Kappa League is the flagship initiative of the fraternity's Guide Right Service Program that "is a program for the education and occupational guidance of youth, primarily inspirational and informational in character," according to Kappa League's national website.
Kappa League's goal "is to train and produce more achieving young men of color that will become leaders of impact and influence in today's society," though Marvin Pettaway said the program is not limited to African Americans.
Pettaway is the Polemarch, or president of the Jefferson City Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi; technically, "polemarch" is a Greek word that means "commander and chief," he said.
"I developed the local hybrid approach to addressing the unmet need at Jefferson City High School, which was to increase mentorship, community service and leadership with young men of color," he said. The hybrid approach he referred to is a collaboration between Kappa League, the University of Missouri's Men of Color, Honor and Ambition initiative, and the National Society of Black Engineers.
Nationally, Kappa League is for male students in grades 6-12, though in Jefferson City, Pettaway said middle school boys in grades 6-8 are served by the Guide Right program.
Carl Dement is the chairman of Jefferson City's Kappa League, in addition to being a teacher at Muriel W. Battle High School in Columbia.
Dement said last week that it's taken a few years to get it going, but JCHS's Kappa League started meeting in October.
There's 21 young men in it now, and from the get-go, the program has been service-oriented.
Dement said a canned food drive collected 1,000 items for the Samaritan Center and Salvation Army, bell-ringing for Salvation Army netted $948 in less than five hours, and there's a blood drive for April in the works.
"It's really been good for a lot of our young men," Teshura Rogers said. Rogers, a JCHS counselor, helped identify students who might be good potential candidates for the program.
"She really gathered us," senior Albert Essel said.
Rogers said she's especially seen turnarounds in sophomores and juniors, particularly students who don't have strong male influences at home.
"I can love on you all day, but I can't teach you how to be a man," she said. She added the young men in Kappa League have "formed a brotherhood," even if they wouldn't have necessarily hung out together otherwise.
Bruner said they're made to feel like family. He added he was attracted to the program by the resources for mentoring, and the program has helped him learn how to speak in front of a class.
Senior Corey Suttle said what appealed to him was the program leaders' "beliefs in how you can be the best you can be."
Dement said the League has workshops to address topics, and also tries to do community or social activities, such as movie nights or sharing a meal.
Essel said an example of a workshop topic is good behavior, and how an individual person or the League is represented by it; "it makes you a little bit more self-aware" that people are watching you, he said.
"I want to help people, whatever I do," Essel said of what he wants to do in the future. He said he wasn't 100 percent sure where he's going to college, but he's interested in economics and business administration; he wants to be an entrepreneur.
Suttle said he's looked at studying business administration and education at Iowa State; he signed in December to play football there.
Bruner is going to MU to study biological sciences with an emphasis in medicine and human health; he wants to go to medical school.
"This is just a first footprint," Pettaway said of Kappa League's local future. He and Dement are looking forward to expanding the program to Capital City High School, and hopefully one day Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools in Columbia in addition to Battle.
The size of the program is only limited by the costs and logistics that depend upon how many students are in it — the costs of training mentors that students are assigned; how many students there are to feed; how many students there are to transport.
People interested in supporting JCHS's Kappa League can contact the school. More information about Kappa League is available at natlkappaleague.org/index.php.