MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — Students of color in Manchester started their school day on Monday with a different type of class — one that’s referred to as a “passport to manhood” by organizers.
“[It teachers] everything from building their self esteem, talking about leadership, talking about community involvement,” said Sam Gray, the president of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity in Hartford.
The annual Young Men of Color Leadership Conference was born out of the idea that too many of Manchester’s youth were being lost to the streets. That’s when Kappa Alpha Psi, the Manchester Police Department and the Manchester Rotary joined together to try to make a difference.
“We have to be role models, set the example, be the change that we want them to see and pour into them,” Gray said.
At least 60 high school students participated in the third year of the conference.
Students will attend sessions through Wednesday. No questions are off limits.
Malik Champlain, who is a part of the fraternity, talked to students about hunger, passion and drive.
“I want to unearth something in them, not really give anything, just remind them of who they are, remind them of what it means to be a man,” he said.
The conference hopes to bridge the gap between students and Manchester police. In April, the department will host an outdoor challenge designed to build trust.
Manchester Police Chief William Darby shared a story about how last year’s event bonded officers and students.
“We had one of the kids go up on one of the high elements and wouldn’t come down,” he said. “So, an officer went up to retrieve him, and we quickly learned the officer had a fear of heights, too.”