Nick Albaek, 12, was looking at his book, when noticing the author’s name asked, “Who is this Catherman guy?,” eliciting laughter from those around him who had already met Catherman.
“He is sitting right behind you,” answered Michael Hamilton-Genson,the school counselor leading the Men in the Making Club at Mooresville Middle School on Oct. 19.
Using a skill he learned in the first two weeks of the club, Nick extended his hand to shake the author’s as he explained they had never met.
“The last two weeks I have had teachers asking me why the boys are shaking their hands,” said Hamilton-Genson, who explained the boys were working on the proper hand shake.
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Huntersville resident Jonathan Catherman had come to observe the club activities that day. He began the clubs with a letter he was writing to his two sons, on a cloud file, in case something happened to him, and he wasn’t able to teach them the things a man should know.
He was inspired to write the letter after surviving a horrific car crash and titled it “If anything ever happened to me.”
“How to shave, change a flat tire or introduce yourself to your girlfriends parents,” he said, “ All guys want the same two things. To gain respect and avoid embarrassment, this program is designed to help with that.”
The cloud file soon turned into a book, “The Manual To Manhood” published in 2014. Hoping to reach at risk boys who may not have a mentor, Catherman started the first Men in the Making Club in Florida about the same time. The book has been a been a No. 1 bestseller since 2014.
Catherman, a sociologist, specializing in youth and emerging culture, has worked in public and private education for the past 25 years throughout the country. He is excited to have the program take off locally, which he hopes will help him reduce his time away from his family.
A grant from the Rotary Club of Lake Norman-Huntersville, along with community sponsors and in partnership with 1M Mentoring —Catherman’s organization — is providing funding for the Men in the Making Clubs during the 2017-2018 school year.
Ten schools are considering the program. Bailey Middle School, Intermediate Mooresville Middle School, J.M. Alexander Middle School, Lake Norman YMCA, Moorseville Middle School, Mt. Island Academy, Ridge Road Middle School and Thunderbird Prep Academy have already committed to the once-a-week, in-school meetings.
The program includes a mentor curriculum, Club Kits, and research studies that measure the impact on student’s behavior, attendance, and academic growth. Catherman said that research shows that students who meet regularly with mentors are: 130 percent are more likely to hold leadership positions, 90 percent say they are interested in becoming a mentor, 81 percent are more likely to participate in sports and extracurricular activities, 78 percent are more likely to volunteer regularly in their community, 55 percent are more likely to enroll in college, 52 percent are less likely than their peers to skip a day of school and 46 percent are less likely to initiate drug use.
Last year at Mooresville Middle School there was a similar program, Men Of Excellence, so they have already seen the benefits of mentoring. School Resource Officer Frank Yannucci said that he has seen grades and attitudes improve in the young men helped with the mentoring.
“We look for boys who may be struggling with grades or social situations and encourage them to join the club. We have 18 now, but with more money and more mentors we could help so many more,” he said.
At Mooresville Middle School the club meets at 7:30 a.m. when the students begin their day. Learning to tie a tie can be tricky. Following the manual may work for some, but on Oct. 19, for Hamilton-Genson, it wasn’t. “I had to put the book down and go with what I know works,” he said, which is fine because there is no perfect way to “mentor.”
These men help boys without mentors become men by helping them learn the skills they need to survive.
“The students who came in earlier, a little withdrawn and tired, are all happy and smiling after trying to tie these ties and interact with each other,” he said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer: email@example.com