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“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

MOI at Fox Meadows Middle School

A calm quietness settles in the room. 10 middle-school boys glance around at one an

other, to the few Men of Influence members in the room, over at me, & back at each other. A boys group is commencing. As introductions are being made & testimonies shared, the energy in the room shifts from unsure & weary, to inviting & safe. As a Student Success Specialist for the last two-years in Harrison School District 2, as well as a south-Colorado Springs Native, I know all too well the experiences that are taking place in the neighborhoods of the Meadows, Pikes Peak Park, & the K-Land. I officially crossed paths with the Men of Influence organization last year, when they had begun

mentorship-services for the school I had worked at at the time (Carmel Community School), & I attended a mixer where I met leader Deandre Smith, & some of the others from the group. I was a moth to the flame; I was sold not only to the idea of proactive intervention for southside schools, but jails/youth detention centers, & the community at-large. During these closed-door discussions, no topic is ever taboo. From discussing how to resolve disrespect via opening lines of communication, to post-secondary career options, these young men are gaining wisdom & proper guidance from those who look like them, talk like them, & live in the same ‘hoods as they do. The partnership with Harrison School District 2 & the Men of Influence is in its infancy, with roots being planted at Carmel Community School, Fox Meadow Middle School, Sierra High School, & Giberson Elementary School to name a few. These groups are the alternative & reversal of the school-to-prison pipeline; where we are leading by example to paint with their pain; make lemonade out of the lemons given.

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.”

David Flanagan

May | 2024

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