The juvenile crime rate at Bailey Middle School in Cornelius has dropped 40 percent this year.
Police chief Bence Hoyle credits the decline in part to the school's newly formed Gs to Gents program.
Open to students in eighth grade, it was started in September by school resource officer Dan Waltman, 27, and Michael Fadel, 31, who teaches science and math at the school. The name was taken from MTV's reality show, in which a group of men who are "rough-around-the-edges" get a chance to transform themselves into gentlemen.
Designed to instill in participants fundamental values like chivalry and etiquette, it also teaches life-long skills such as interviewing techniques, grooming habits and the importance of physical fitness. Respect, decision-making, relationships, alcohol and drug abuse also are discussed.
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"We're able to help lead kids in the right direction and give them core values they may not get at home," Fadel said. "And it betters our school."
The club, for boys only, is attended by about 30 students ages 13-15, who are required to wear a tie, dress shirt and pants each Friday and attend group discussions and after-school activities. Waltman encouraged some of the school's at-risk participants to join, but others joined voluntarily.
Brandon Casa, 14, has enjoyed learning to be a gentleman, he said, and it's even helped him impress a few of his female classmates.
"I think everything we've been doing is fun," he said.
Joey Rugger, 14, said the program encourages him to be a better person and make good decisions.
"It teaches us how to act, and it prepares us for certain situations we may be faced with and gives us tools so we know how to act in those situations," he said.
The club meets during the school's fifth block every Friday, when students throughout the school participate in clubs and organizations.
The group recently was visited by four-time Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen. The Mooresville resident commentated on this year's races in Vancouver for NBC and was featured in a Visa "Go World" commercial that documented his pursuit for the gold.
The 30-second spot told his story of tragedy and triumph. Hours before his race in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Jansen's sister, Jane, died from cancer. He promised her he'd win gold, but fell during competition. Six years later, at the Olympic Games in Norway, Jansen won gold. He did a victory lap with his daughter, Jane, who he named after his late sister.
"Things don't always go our way," he said in his presentation about setting and achieving goals. "All you can do is go do the best you can. That, to me, is being a success."
About the program he said, "It's great for kids to see and learn more than what they're learning in the halls and in the classroom. It teaches them adult skills they'll use in life beyond eighth grade."
Waltman plans to continue the program at Hough High School, where he'll be working next fall. He also hopes to incorporate more community service projects and, eventually, wants the club to be run by upperclassmen, who would act as mentors to the younger students.