Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2013
KANNAPOLIS — Six students at A.L. Brown High School wear ties every Tuesday, but they’re not just dressing up.
They take turns opening the school doors for their classmates in the morning, they look for ways to show kindness and respect and they mentor younger students weekly at Kannapolis Intermediate School.
Their mission statement reads, “The Tie Tuesday Club will strive to implement chivalry back into the lives of young men at the high school level. Teaching them important life skills to help ensure quality leadership, unquestionable character, and the honor of a gentleman one tie at a time.”
Before this noble purpose was found, Tie Tuesday started as a simple matter of style.
Caleb Hicks, who founded the club at the beginning of this year, said he and his brother started wearing ties every Tuesday for fun at Covenant Classical School in Concord.
When Hicks began going to school at A.L. Brown — his brother, Chase, now attends the N.C. School of Science and Math — he encouraged friends to join him in Tie Tuesday. Soon, he started to think about adding meaning to the stylish neckwear.
“I just saw the need and the lack of chivalry all around,” he said. “People aren’t practicing it anymore. It’s gone by the wayside. … I thought I’d tie the two together, because they just fit well together.”
In January, the Tie Tuesday Club was officially born.
The members began by opening doors for people at the front of the school while wearing dress shirts and ties. Then, they found out that Kannapolis Intermediate School was in need of a mentoring program.
Every Tuesday morning, before class starts, the club members go to the intermediate school to play games, eat snacks and talk with the students there. They listen to how the younger students’ lives are going and encourage them to make good decisions.
Hicks mentors sixth-grader Seth Purser, who said he likes Tie Tuesday and thinks Hicks is a “cool dude.”
“He’s teaching me how to be chivalrous, hold open doors for people, act like a gentleman and treat people how I want to be treated by others,” Seth said.
Seth said his school counselor, who used to talk to him about things that were happening at home, recommended him for the program. Since he’s started going to the weekly sessions, he has noticed some changes in himself.
“I’m nicer to people. I’m also more respectful,” Seth said. “I’m not saying I was a complete rebel back then, but still, I’m more respectful now.”
Fifth-grader Kamari Cadet said he thinks Tie Tuesday has helped him talk to people more and work better with others.
“I like being here because we get to play games,” he said.
Kamari’s mentor is Corie Goss, a 10th grader. He said he joined the club after noticing that Hicks was wearing a “really cool tie” one day. When Goss asked why he was wearing the tie, Hicks told him about the Tie Tuesday Club.
Goss went to a meeting to learn more. When he heard about its emphasis on chivalry, respect and helping others, he decided to get involved.
“It seemed like a good thing to do,” Goss said. “It’s pretty cool. There’s a lot of opportunities to help out around school and help younger kids.”
He said he tries to impart a respect for elders to the boys while they are still young enough to listen.
“I’ve seen that once kids get to middle school age, they start to think that they know everything and that they don’t have to listen to anybody,” Goss said.
Hicks said he’s excited to bring in new members next year, find more ways to help people, expand to other intermediate and middle schools and maybe even give ties to the younger students so they can start their own Tie Tuesday.
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Corey Stirewalt, government and politics teacher at A.L. Brown, said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the club when he was approached to be an advisor along with science teacher Barry Lentz. Now, he can see that Tie Tuesday does make a difference.
“It’s unbelievable, really. It’s funny how a different type of attire can make you completely change the way you act,” Stirewalt said. “You can see that, and you can see a change in how other people treat them as well.”
Stirewalt said he hopes their high school classmates will see their acts of chivalry and kindness and decide to “pay it forward” by continuing them.
“I’m extremely proud of the guys,” he said. “They do a great job.”
To be admitted into the Tie Tuesday Club, students must be male and must have a 2.5 GPA or higher.
Stirewalt said he and some other teachers are looking into creating a sister club with the same type of focus — though he’s not sure what it would be called or if another clothing accessory would be involved. In the meantime, female students from A.L. Brown are also given the chance to mentor girls at the intermediate school.
The best thing to come out of the club so far, Stirewalt said, is the way its members are helping the younger kids.
Colleen Cluckey, counselor at Kannapolis Intermediate School, said she’d like to expand the mentoring program next year if more high school students are interested.
Cluckey and another counselor, Elizabeth Vaughan, gave the mentors training on communication and active listening skills when the club first started. One or both counselors are present for every Tuesday morning mentoring session.
“They talk about what’s going on in their lives and how to make better choices,” Cluckey said. “The mentors have helped guide them and just really make an impact in developing good character skills.”
She said intermediate school students are individually chosen to be part of the program based on who the counselors think could benefit most. The focus isn’t specifically on “at-risk” kids, she said, as much as on those who are struggling with something or could just use someone to guide them.
The students and mentors then were paired together based on their personalities, Cluckey said.
She praised the dedication of the high school students who serve as mentors.
“They’re coming over in their free time to help our students here,” Cluckey said. “They’re instilling a lot of chivalrous qualities in our students and helping them develop into gentlemen.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.