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Article: Boys' mentoring group building future leaders

Boys' mentoring group building future leaders

When Washington Elementary School teacher Toby Koeth and 11 4th- and 5th-grade boys stood together earlier this month at Lakeview Park for a photo, the boys stood a little taller and smiled a little wider.
 
It was as if they knew it was the natural stance to take when you are wearing a suit and fresh off a nice dinner overlooking Lake Erie.
 
But this night out was not an ordinary school field trip. This was the culminating event of a 20-week program aimed at helping to shape young boys into young men who are ready to lead at home, in school, and their communities. The suits — purchased through private donations Koeth secured —and dinner — made possible by the support of attorney Tony Giardini — marked another successful year for the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today after-school club, which Koeth started in 201.
 
“I started the club to help instill and improve manners, respect, self-worth, and good citizenship in our boys at an early age,” said Koeth. “These are not lessons on how to be a good man or gentleman, but how to be a good person with integrity and a better citizen.”
 
 So, what exactly do Tomorrow’s Leaders Today members learn in the 20-week mentoring program. First and foremost, Koeth said students learn the techniques of a proper handshake — use a firm grip, make eye contact, and stand up tall with good posture. Each week is a new skill from learning how to calculate a 20-percent tip when dining out to lessons on setting the table for dinner and tying a tie in a Windsor knot. 

Koeth even shows the boys how to cook dinner for their families, using chicken alfredo as his go-to recipe.
 
“I really look forward to Wednesday,” said fifth-grader Jayden Taylor. “This is teaching us things we need to do.”
 
Club president Brian Peterson, a fifth-grade student, elected by his peers to hold the coveted title, said he took the lessons on manners and attitude seriously.
 
“It’s about how you respect people,” he said.
 
Tomorrow’s Leaders Today requires students to do more than just show up for 45 minutes once a week for a quick lesson. A teacher must nominate each member, and the students must maintain good grades and behavior in the classroom — Koeth said he checks on each boy weekly.
 
“Unfortunately, we always end with fewer boys than we start with because it is hard to be a gentleman all the time, but one of the backbones of the club is the restorative process. It teaches them that it is OK to make a mistake if they are willing to earn their way back into a positive standing.”
 
And if there is any doubt that the boys and Koeth don’t form a strong bond over the 20-week period, just listen to how the group concludes each meeting with a group huddle and inspiring closing statement: I trust you. I respect you. I love you. Have a great day.

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