BFMS Holds Men’s Day To Encourage Male Students To Succeed
Assembly featured prominent BFMS alumni and community members.
The boys of Benjamin Franklin Middle School listened to messages of success and encouragement from their peers, their educators and their fellow residents during Monday’s second annual Men’s Day.
Principal Lennox Small asked male family members of students and men from the community to greet students upon their arrival at 8 a.m. then to stick around and tour the classrooms and attend an assembly for the fifth- through eighth-grade boys.
More than 50 adults were on hand, including many alumni of BFMS, such as Teaneck Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin and Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen.
At the start of the assembly, Small made sure the meaning behind the day’s event was clear to his students. He told them the three main issues that were being discussed on the news: the uprising in Egypt, the political instability in Haiti, and an update on the economy.
“There was absolutely nothing on the underperformance of young men in our nation’s public schools,” he said. “We now live in a nation where ignorance and failure among young men is now perceived as normal and even expected. This is America’s silent epidemic. Today is an opportunity to reflect and examine the situation in greater detail because failure is now perceived as normal.”
Small then told the boys that at his school, no one expects them to fail.
“We expect you to excel while you’re here,” he said. “We expect you to excel in high school. We expect you to attend some of the finest institutions of higher learning in the future. So no, I will not be surprised when I hear former students attended Harvard, Yale, Rutgers and Georgetown, to name a few. BF graduates have done some great things. And we want you to be a part of that legacy.”
Hameeduddin, who graduated from BFMS in 1987, then came to the podium and encouraged students to be leaders by listening to their teachers, doing their homework and completing their chores.
“You have to take responsibility for yourself,” he said. “The choices you make right now will directly impact your future, and you guys have to act in your own interest or be acted upon.”
The next part of the assembly included a question-and-answer segment with three BFMS alumni and two students who Small said “represent the best of BFMS” in both their academic and social performance.
The panel consisted of Dr. Jason Baynes, sports agent Chris Brantley, Deputy Mayor Gussen and students Eddie Rivera and Anthony Phillips. For about 10 minutes the panel fielded questions from Small and other students about fighting negative peer pressure, making sacrifices to succeed and what it means to be a man.
“I think being a man is being mature; and sometimes you have to do what you don’t want to do, but it’s the right thing,” said Rivera.
Anthony agreed and then offered his own bit of advice to his peers: “You should be able to do something on your own and be proud of yourself.”
The assembly concluded with all 72 eighth-graders coming to the front of the auditorium to receive a tie. The men in the audience joined the boys up front to offer guidance in putting on the tie properly. Small then instructed the students to wear their ties proudly to school on Tuesday.
“You were given a tie by someone from the community,” Small said. “The tie that you’re wearing is now symbolic of a greater connection you need to have with your community and with who you are. Whether you like it or not, you are the leaders of the school. Your peers look up to you. The way you think and act will let them know what’s appropriate.”
As the lunch hour neared, students were dismissed to their classrooms, and the adults gathered their belongings to return to their homes or jobs.
Scott Pleasants, who is a director with New York City Transit, had three children graduate from BFMS. He said he was glad the school held the event for a second year.
“The children seem really receptive to seeing so many men from the community who want them to succeed,” he said. “We’re telling them what they need to do in order to succeed and helping them understand that everything starts academically in the classroom. I wish we could have instead of 50 people, we could have 500 men come out and do this.”