HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– How do you get kids excited about going back to school? Start the day with a boost of energy from the community.
“If you didn’t leave here tired and inspired, then you didn’t do something right,” said Pastor A.J. Johnson of the Urban Hope Refuge Church. He first saw a video of men welcoming students at a school in Atlanta.
“Five years ago, we re-created it and it went viral across the country,” Johnson said.
They call themselves “Calling all Brothers.” At the combined Martin Luther King and Sarah Rawson schools in Hartford, there were two dozen men high-fiving each student, parent and teacher walking in the building. They are doing this at a different school every day this week.
“I’m always impressed with the turnout and the enthusiasm on the part of the men of the community,” said Eric Coleman, who said he has not missed a change to participate.
It is not just the fact that there are people cheering students on as they go to school, it is really more important exactly who was there cheering them on.
“Pastors, doctors lawyers, everybody here to welcome the kids back into school,” said Marlon “Magic Man” Starling, a former professional athlete. He was a championship boxer in the 1980s.
“Today we have more parents coming out and bringing their kids to school,” Starling said. “It shows you it’s a whole family gathering.”
The idea is to have grown men who value their education and succeeded because of it, literally cheering on the young men and women who will continue that tradition. Men like longtime state senator, now superior court judge, Eric Coleman.
“It’s important to model for the young people, and to show them that we do have a great deal of concern and care for their achievement and their success,” Coleman said. “Hopefully it pays off.”
They don’t just cheer these kids, they mentor them. They developed a black history curriculum. Eighth graders compete in a Jeopardy-style game show that tests that knowledge every February.