Boys to Men

Douse Elementary Boys to Men Club
By: Todd Martin
There is a group of fourth- and fifth-grade boys at Douse Elementary School spending a little extra time at school to learn to be men.
The second-year school’s new Boys To Men Club is teaching young men the basics of etiquette and respect while providing opportunities for community service. It joins several elementary schools in the area with similar clubs for boys and girls.
Douse teacher Arnold Murphy began the after-school club a couple of years after he helped start one at Haynes Elementary School.
In its final meeting of 2018, a special guest in town to see family and friends stopped by and said he wished he had a Mr. Murphy when he was in elementary school.
Standing 6-foot-6-inches tall, DesMontes Stewart has no trouble getting the attention of students. The superintendent of Gainesville ISD, a small school district in far north Texas near the Oklahoma border, gave inspirational charge to the Boys to Men group December 20.
Stewart was deputy superintendent in Killeen ISD three years before taking the top administrative post at the 3,200-student district north of Dallas-Fort Worth last summer.
The guest speaker explained to Killeen students his journey from growing up in a humble Waco neighborhood to deciding to invest his efforts in athletics and academics on the way to earning three college degrees and rising to the superintendent position.
In middle school, Stewart said he wanted to be part of the “in crowd” and assumed that as a top athlete and basketball standout he was on his way to being the next Michael Jordan.
At the same time, he looked around and realized the men in his family had not made wise decisions and he wanted to break the cycle of poverty and be able to take care of his mother, who labored to raise he and his younger brother.
“I knew I had to get an education,” he said. He earned an athletic scholarship to play basketball and also graduated high in his class.
While Stewart began to achieve athletically and then due to injury, focus even more on academic pursuits, his younger brother chose to pursue fast money and wound up in jail and eventually in prison.
“I’ve come a long way,” said the school district superintendent, “but I have so much more to go. I’m not done. I can be better tomorrow as a man, as a father, as a brother, as a son and as a friend.”
He told students the choice to take school seriously can mean turning from friendships that are destructive, pointing out that “trouble is easy to get into and difficult to get out of,” he said. “I want to be an example to all.”
Stewart told the fourth- and fifth-graders they are at a critical junction to make choices about behavior, friendships and taking school seriously as their levels of responsibility and freedom increase.
Once he realized his dreams of professional sports were gone, Stewart studied accounting, but an experience shifted his focus again. While volunteering at a Boys and Girls Club he realized how much he enjoyed children and moved to become a teacher and coach.