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Men of Vision looks to transform boys into men at McLane Middle

 
McLane Middle School teachers Akeim Young, left, and Vernon White Jr., right, help lead the school’s Men of Vision program for male students like Jaylan Hill and Tyler Zollarsmedina.
McLane Middle School teachers Akeim Young, left, and Vernon White Jr., right, help lead the school’s Men of Vision program for male students like Jaylan Hill and Tyler Zollarsmedina.
Published Oct. 6, 2016

BRANDON — The bell rang and a herd of students at McLane Middle School scurried to their second-period classes.

Young male students dressed in their Sunday best with smiles gleaming mingled in the crowd as they approached the classroom of behavior specialist Akeim Young.

The seventh- and eighth-grade youths walked into Young's second-period class wearing buttoned-down shirts, ties, slacks and dress shoes. Young teaches a course called "peer tutorial" and sponsors an extracurricular club called Men of Vision at McLane.

Peer tutorial helps students build life skills with various strategies, which correlates with the curriculum. The course promotes positive peer interactions, along with conflict resolutions. Students also read every day and Young provides tutoring to those who need it.

Eighth-grader Tyler Zollarsmedina, 14, said Men of Vision has impacted his life.

"Before Men of Vision, I got in trouble a lot," Tyler said. "I gave attitude toward my teachers and mother. It taught me how to respect my elders and women."

Seventh-grader Jaylan Hill, 13, said Men of Vision has instilled hope in his outlook.

"In the past, I received bad grades and did not worry about my future," Jaylan said. "Men of Vision helped me turn my life around because now I am earning all A's in math."

Men of Vision is a welcome addition at McLane, a school that has endured behavioral and academic challenges in recent years.

Ross Anderson and Rory Beauford founded Men of Vision in 2006 at a Tampa middle school to assist young men seeking to enhance their lives and the community through academic achievement. Young brought the program to McLane this year.

Men of Vision strives to teach students to show the utmost respect to women, teachers, staff, parents, law enforcement and peers. All Men of Vision members must perform some type of community service to benefit their school or community. They also must maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average, along with aiming to achieve a 3.5 or higher. All conduct grades should be A's or B's.

Young took Men of Vision's primary principles and implemented a few of his own twists.

"On Wednesdays, students wear ties instead of bow ties," Young said. "Also, they do most of their community service at their school or in their own communities."

With his new vision, Young aims to empower the young men with the confidence that they deserve the best and can achieve anything as long as they believe in themselves. Young grew up in Tampa's Sulphur Springs community and his mentor, Franklin Williams, showed Young how he could change his current situation.

Young wakes up in the morning because students need to know that they hold the power to change.

"I would like for all of my young men to truly understand the characteristics of fatherhood," Young said. "Also, why it is vital to us bringing positive change to our way of life in our neighborhoods."

Club assistant and McLane sixth-grade social studies teacher Vernon White Jr. sees several signs and indications that the Men of Vision program works.

"We saw that the program works because people would come up to them and ask why the students dress up on Wednesdays and how can they be a part of it," White said.

He added that another positive indicator has formed: Some of the female students dress up to support this new direction at McLane.

Both Zollarsmedina and Hill thank Young for changing their lives and helping them become better people.

The future looks bright for Men of Vision as the program strengthens its mission. Men of Vision members look to give back to their communities by having their top readers dress for success and read at elementary schools.

It also wants to promote and teach positive characteristics in and out of the classroom.

McLane strives to bridge the gap between the community and school in a positive manner.

For more information about Men of Vision, visit menofvisioninc.com.

Contact Tatiana Ortiz at hillsnews@tampabay.com.