Community leaders flocked to R. Frank Nims Middle School to provide mentorship at gentleman’s tie day, to youth that has faced severe difficulties in their communities.
Guest speakers included Florida State University President John Thrasher, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey and Superintendent of Leon County Rocky Hanna among others. Their goal was simple; instill positivity and self-respect into the young men at Nims.
In order to relate to the students, speakers rehashed heartbreaking childhood memories that forced them to look at life and make a change.
Florida A&M University Police Chief Terrance Calloway spoke about the experience that scared him straight.
“I was hanging with one of my boys. One of the guys that he had beef with, walks up and without hesitation, shoots him right in the head. Right in front of me,” Calloway said.
The purpose of telling the story was to get the students to understand the importance of who you hang around and the lifestyle that you choose to live on a daily basis.
Currently, Nims serves a demographic of students that are 82 percent African American. 78 percent of that demographic is on free or reduced lunch, which means that most students face issues beyond academic difficulties.
In the 2009-2010 school year, Nims was slapped with a failing grade but has since steadily increased to a C grade. Even with so much progress Nims still faces urgent academic struggles. In their annual FSA testing, which compares students’ academic progress against the rest of the state, Nims showed areas of concern.
Only 23 percent of sixth-grade students at the middle school passed their English language section of FSA testing against 54 percent who passed across all of Leon County. In regards to sixth-grade mathematics, Nims fared even worse passing, just 11 percent of students compared to 53 percent across the county.
Tallahassee Pastor L.J. Jenkins offered insight on how presentation births self-respect and encourages students to perform better.
“We came, my colleagues and I came to inspire greatness into the students. To show the students that you don’t have to wear your pants down to look appealing, or to look nice. You can wear a suit, you can look nice and you can focus your mind and achieve greatness that way,” he said.
Students were mandated to dress professionally for the event, wearing white dress shirts, slacks, and gold ties.
Emotions ran high at the event as the guest speakers revealed in painful memories while still imploring positivity into the youth in attendance.
City commissioner Nick Maddox made a bold proclamation to a young student in the audience as him and the student exchanged ties.
“When you graduate from middle school, I’ll be there. When you going through something, I’ll be there. When you graduate high school, I’ll be at the graduation. I’m going to make sure you get my personal email and personal phone number, If you ever need anything I got you. Because somebody did that for me and that changed everything in my life,” he said.
Eighth grader Jordan Watson was touched by the event and spoke about the changes he will make going forward.
“I’m going to respect my momma because I feel like she is the only one that’s going to be there for me. And I’m not going to get in trouble, because it’s just not worth it,” he said.
While Nims student body didn’t receive all of the answers to the circumstances they face going forward, having such esteemed speakers host an event at the school was definitely a starting point. With the mentorship of these individuals, Nims student body can continue to rebuild their school and community.