Bucking the trend with minority male drop-outs

By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

GREENACRES, Fla.(WFLX)-- It may seem like tedious clean-up work to most.

But with every two-by-four removed and every bit of a courtyard pressure cleaned, boys are learning to become men with help of their teachers in The Bridge program at Okeeheelee Middle School.

"We call it The Bridge because we want to create a bridge from Boyhood to Manhood," said language arts teacher Robert Bender who is part of a unique faculty.

47% of the teachers at the Greenacres school are men, an unusually high number in a profession dominated by women.

Principal Doctor David Samore says it's by design.

"One of the reasons why The Bridge was created because the truth is many men are interested in making children and not raising them," he said.

And young boys, especially minority boys, are high on the drop-out list.

Many of the students in the program have challenges at home like financial hardships or an absentee father.

That's why 16 Male teachers mentor 34 children after school on their own time.

"Other times I will see the boys in the hallway and they want to share something that happened in their day or something that's on their mind," said career education teacher Andy Winer.

There's a computer repair lab where old computers are fixed up and then donated to charity.

"They learn to follow something through from beginning to end and then the ultimate is when they get to give to people," said math teacher Douglas Dudeck.

"We just want to help these kids realize that there are men that care and want to show them what authentic manhood looks like and put in the time, not just words, with them," added Bender.

8th Grader Ludin Guillen says he learned his lesson on life.

"Back in 6th grade, I used to have bad behavior and bad grades. The teachers, the men helped me out. From then my grades went up and my FCAT scores went up too," he said.

Principal Samore says since The Bridge was created 3 years ago dozens of kids have gone on to high school and graduated and beyond.

Although the problems of male minority drop-outs stretches well beyond his school, he feels he is still making a sizable change.