By Dante Cordaro

During my semester working with Durham School of the Arts, I had the opportunity to follow the GENTS program. Led by middle school principal Clifton Thomas with the help of Mr. Lockamy, GENTS stands for Gentility, Enthusiasm, Integrity, Tenacity, and Service. The goal of the organization is to promote community leadership among a group of exceptional 7th and 8th grade young men. The GENTS meetings provide a forum for members to congratulate each other's accomplishments and address any concerns that members have at school, in their local community, or with the world at large. Additionally, members of the group will begin each meeting by discussing events in their life that are important to them, fostering an exchange of each other's values and priorities. My work focuses particular on Collin Davis and Ismael Cornejo-Luna, two members of the 8th grade at DSA who participate in the GENTS program. I have been incredibly lucky to get to know two talented, amicable, and inspiring young men.

I can't help but to think how lucky these 20 members of the DSA community are to be a part of such a unique program. Looking back on my days as a middle school student, I wish I had a program such as the one designed by Principal Thomas to round out my education. It can be hard for a student to remain focused on learning math, social studies, and science when a disagreement with a friend or a situation going on at home is really what the student is concerned about. I have always felt that our education system should incorporate more personal development and life skills into the curriculum. So many of the issues our society faces today could be resolved or mitigated through more community involvement. The GENTS program is something I would love to see implemented in middle schools around the nation, and I cannot wait to see how the program continues to grow and prosper at DSA.