A CLUB FOR GENTLEMAN
Jeremiah Roman has a dream to start a gentleman’s club. But that doesn’t mean what you might think. His dream is to build a “club,” a community of young men who emerge with a healthy sense of self, strong character, and the ability to relate to people from all walks of life.
“I want to build a group where these kids can learn how to deal with and talk to adults, be polite and respectful, while at the same time be comfortable expressing their views.” For now, Roman is content with listening.
The boys, who gather weekly with Roman as Senior Youth Practitioner, are in the 9th and 10th grade. One of Roman’s goals is to get them to open up and share what they are thinking. His tactic? Throwing out questions about a relevant topic that he knows will light a spark. The idea is not that they share with him, necessarily, but that they dialogue with each other. This is how Roman fosters a sense of community, a challenging thing to create among boys this age.
“If you ask most kids around 14 to 18 what they think about something, you might not get much in return,” says Roman. “Especially with other boys around. But, if I ask what they think about body cams on New York City police officers, then pretty much every one of them is going to have something to say.”
TEENS SAY TECHNOLOGY IS STEALING THEIR COMMUNICATION SKILLS
This last week there were three questions up for debate. The first was whether NYPD police officers should wear bodycams. (The 34th precinct, where FYI is located, was one of the first in New York City to begin wearing them). The majority of boys thought the cameras were a good idea.
The second question was whether technology was making people feel lonely, or more connected. While the opinions on this differed, the group came to a majority consensus that technology is robbing people of gaining face-to-face communication skills.
The third question of the week? Should middle school kids be drug-tested.
“They really surprised me,” Roman says. “They 100% said that middle school kids should be tested for drugs.” According to Roman, he suddenly was hearing stories about kids playing sports who do drugs, and one young man who was concerned about his sister, who has shown him videos of kids doing drugs at her school.
“I try to get them thinking about these issues in different ways, use their critical thinking skills, come up with solutions, maybe,” says Roman. “But the most important thing is help them get to know one another, and develop a community among themselves, a set of peers they can trust.”
FITTING IN AND FINDING OUT WHO YOU ARE
Recently one 8th grader was having trouble fitting in with this group. Roman saw that he wasn’t comfortable and socially a little behind. Because the young man lacks confidence, Roman has been encouraging him to just be himself, while at the same time making sure that the good-natured teasing of the older boys doesn’t go too far. “I let them know that they have a responsibility, too,” he says, “they have to learn the importance of helping him fit in.”