Kansas City nonprofit uses basketball, mentoring to turn metro boys into men

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Statistics from MENTOR show 1 in 4 public school children drop out of school before they finish high school, but mentoring can change that.

For African-American and Hispanic students, roughly 3 out of 5 graduate from high school. One group in the metro is taking the challenge personally.

The Society of Gentlemen has guided nearly 100 of young men from the Kansas City area over the last 10 years. But they aren't done yet.

In the Turnberry Boys and Girls Club off 44th Street, sneakers squeaked and whistles echoed through the gym Saturday.

It takes a coach to build a team. It takes a village to raise a child. Yet for many of the young men in the gym Saturday, their village was just one mom.

"A lot of the young men don't have fathers," Garron Haynes said, "including myself. My father's serving close to 30 years in prison."

So Haynes is building his own kind of team: the Society of Gentlemen. He and others from his church, started a mentor program for middle and high school boys 10 years ago.

"Why do we do this?" he asked. "We feel like the community needs to come together."

It fills the spot on the roster a father-figure might.

"Teaching them how to tie a tie, cut grass, writing resumes, and build a bond with each other," he said.

Demarcio Hooks, a student at Discovery Middle School, learned how to light a BBQ grill. When his father died four years ago, he needed that team.

"I used to see the older kids do this," the 13-year-old, "and I said, 'I want to do that.'"

His mother said the Society of Gentlemen swooped in and took Demarcio under their wings. She said she's seen the difference it's made.

"Anything that he does," she said proudly, "from school, from sports, he's really confident. And that's what they've really built in him, and I really appreciate that they have done that."

But the Society of Gentlemen isn't just about basketball.

Kendrick Ricketts works at his church's book store.

"Sometimes I think we don`t realize the little things that help people out -- what kind of doors they can open for us," he explained.

Ricketts joined the Society of Gentlemen in sixth grade. He's now a senior at Sumner Academy.

"SoG taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about finance, your job attire, getting your mind focused and set on finishing high school strong and trying to achieve and go to college," he said.

Whether it's ringing up books or putting up layups, what set this apart from other mentoring programs is the depth it builds in the bench.

"Take what you`ve learned," Ricketts said, "and continue teaching that to someone else".

It isn't just adults mentoring children. It's older teens guiding the younger ones. Building men, after all, is a team effort.