Aventura school hosts kickoff event for national boys’ mentorship program

Bestselling author Jonathan Catherman looks for volunteers from Aventura City of Excellence School to demonstrate a proper handshake at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.
Bestselling author Jonathan Catherman looks for volunteers from Aventura City of Excellence School to demonstrate a proper handshake at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center on Wednesday, March 1, 2017.

Twenty-seven boys at Aventura City of Excellence School are on the road to becoming men.

The youngsters attended an hourlong speaking event Wednesday to mark the launch of the school’s One Million Men in the Making club, a mentorship program for adolescent boys based largely on founder Jonathan Catherman’s book, “The Manual to Manliness.”

Catherman attended the event at Aventura Arts & Cultural Center. His book teaches life skills — such as shaking hands, tying a tie and managing money — and positive character traits, like confidence, trustworthiness and leadership.

“We certainly don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but what we do know is that what’s missing in mentoring is quality curriculum and quantifiable data, and that’s what we’ve been able to create: a curriculum that any mentor can follow,” said Catherman, a sociologist and educator. “They don’t have to create anything and can quantify the academic, discipline, attendance and engagement measures for each of the students in an impact study every 18 months.”

Often shortened in signage with the monogram “1M,” the school club was launched by Principal Julie Alm and implemented by Dean of Students Anthony Tyrkala and teacher Bill Sorscher, who serve as club mentors.

The 27 selected to join this year come early to school to interact, learn and practice Catherman’s teachings.

Alm said she already has seen significant improvements in the boys’ behavior.

“I’m noticing them holding doors. I’m noticing them saying good morning more,” she said. “I’m also noticing them forming cohesive relationships with each other and having conversations about things that are more personal to them — talking about what’s going on at home. They’re definitely more focused on academics as well.”

The curriculum and data collection system 1M uses is the result of a collaborative effort between Catherman and Matthew Ohlson, whose Collegiate Achievement Mentorship Programs — C.A.M.P. Gator at the University of Florida and C.A.M.P. Osprey at the University of North Florida — pair college student mentors with K-12 students who develop skills similar to those detailed in Catherman’s book.

It is through C.A.M.P. that 1M receives grant funding.

“Forget math, science, curriculum development in the acquisition of skills in academics — if students don’t have basic skills like believing in themselves, managing their time effectively and learning how to properly solve problems, they won’t be successful,” Ohlson said. “One of the reasons we have the grant to support this initiative here is because of the leadership and support from the community. We’re looking to create a network of schools that use this mentoring model throughout the state and have the University of North Florida — our C.A.M.P. Osprey program — be its hub.”

In the waterside auditorium the K-8 charter school shares its campus with, the 27 young club members sat in the front two rows wearing T-shirts featuring the 1M logo and slogan: “Skills make a man valuable. His character makes him invaluable.”

More than 215 of their male classmates filled the seats behind them. Parents, faculty and community leaders, including Aventura City Manager Eric Soroka and Commissioner Linda Marks, were also in attendance.

The event, emceed by Tyrkala, featured testimonials from some of the boys in the club and presentations by Catherman, Ohslon, Sorscher and guest speaker Greg Brown, head baseball coach at Nova Southeastern University.

Only boys in grades six through eight are currently allowed in the club, but with the July 4 release of Catherman’s second book, “The Manual to Middle School,” Tyrkala believes that fifth graders will be able to participate by next year.

“Eventually, we’ll have a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade continuum, where we have larger groups and it just becomes part of our school culture, where the eighth graders become mentors in an aspect,” he said.

While currently modest in scope, smaller, non-club mentoring tools based on 1M have been introduced in schools in Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York, California and Colorado. A second 1M club is scheduled to open soon at Matanzas High School in Palm Coast, Florida.

“We are rolling out nationwide,” Catherman said. “This is our first Men in the Making Club, and our goal is in our name: to provide a mentoring resource for a million young men in the United States.”


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