It’s difficult to be a teenager: juggling homework deadlines, making new friends, figuring out popularity and dating, planning for what you want to do after high school … the list goes on. Meeting the demands of the school day is one thing, but growing into the man you’re meant to be and want to be is another.
Enter M.O.R.E. (Men Organized, Respectful and Educated), CPS’ peer leadership program designed to nurture academic success alongside strong character development in the young men who walk the halls of CPS schools.
“M.O.R.E. is intended to help students as early as grade 4 build a foundation of character, healthy social and emotional behaviors, and ambition for the future,” said William Johnson, M.O.R.E. program district coordinator.
The program’s roots can be traced back to Aiken High School in 2009. It became a district-wide initiative in 2011 as the program expanded to 10 schools. Now, more than 500 students participate across 15 clubs in elementary schools and 12 clubs in high schools—27 M.O.R.E. clubs total.
Each club has after-school programming, and monthly and quarterly enrichment opportunities around topics such as financial literacy, leadership and social skills development, good citizenship, health and wellness, community service, and more. Conversations at monthly meetings often reflect what the students are experiencing in school and in their personal lives at that time, from social media usage, bullying, and dating to self-respect and recognizing when to walk away from dangerous situations.
“Some of our students in M.O.R.E. may be dealing with adult situations in their life at a young age,” said Johnson. “We want to provide a space for them to express themselves in a constructive way, develop skills to cope with life’s difficulties and discuss their future aspirations.”
Noteworthy experiences include the annual Summer Retreat, a three-day immersion open to any boy in grades 5 through 8, even if their current school doesn’t have a M.O.R.E. club. They visit Miami University and the University of Cincinnati, discuss college life and explore potential pathways beyond high school. High school students participate in the Manpower Conference in early December, with keynote speakers, breakout sessions and peer advisory exercises.
After growing a successful program with passionate advisors and engaged students, Johnson is looking forward to adding a mentorship component to M.O.R.E. in the 2018-19 school year. The new offering would groom students to mentor younger M.O.R.E. students, acting as a “big brother” and sounding board. Plus, it’s is a little reflective of Johnson’s own path: Johnson was a M.O.R.E. advisor at Schroder High School, his alma mater, before becoming the district program coordinator. He’s personally mentored many M.O.R.E. students who went on to mentor other students.
“I was seeing a role I could play with the students, from being a basketball coach to a mentor to someone they can call when they just need some advice or guidance,” said Johnson. “They keep me on top of my game,” he said with a big smile.
Learn more and keep up with M.O.R.E. at https://www.cps-k12.org/about-cps/district-initiatives/peer-leadership-collaboratives. M.O.R.E. is always seeking partners and leaders willing to offer personal time or financial donations. Those interested can contact William Jonson at firstname.lastname@example.org.