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Standing in the GAP conference today

Getting more men involved in the schools

Special Photo by Jerry Jackson: Clayton County Board of Education Member Charlton Bivins spoke to scores of students and community members, during last year’s “Five Hundred Men Standing In the GAP” conference.

Special Photo by Jerry Jackson: Clayton County Board of Education Member Charlton Bivins spoke to scores of students and community members, during last year’s “Five Hundred Men Standing In the GAP” conference.

It was William Greene, principal at Mundy’s Mill High School, and a group of men in the Clayton County School System and local community, who saw a need for more positive male role models in the lives of students.

Hoping to build a stronger male presence in the schools –– in 2009 –– the men formed a group they called, The Five Hundred Men Standing In the GAP, and got it approved to do volunteer work in the school system.

“We’re trying to pass the torch,” said Greene. “It’s important for us, as men, to increase a stronger bond in the community.”

Greene said the program has been a success, and he has witnessed a significant increase in the amount of positive male activity in the schools.

Today, the men are hosting their second annual conference, and it will be held, from 9:30 a.m., to noon, at Mundy's Mill High School, located at 9652 Fayetteville Road, in Jonesboro.

Those spearheading the initiative include: Edmond Heatley, Clayton County Schools Superintendent; John Brinson, of the Clayton County Collaborative Authority; William Greene, principal at Mundy’s Mill High School; Patrick Phillips, a Clayton County teacher; Detrick Stanford, director of Clayton County Parks and Recreation; Adolphus Graves, of the Fulton County Juvenile Court, and Charlton Bivins, a member of the Clayton County Board of Education.

The “Five Hundred Men Standing in the Gap” conference is free, and open to members of the community, and students in 5th through 12th grades.

It was designed in conjunction with the All-Pro DADS program, an initiative of Family First, which is aimed at helping men become better fathers, and foster a healthier atmosphere for their families.

The Five Hundred Men effort seeks to renew interest in existing programs that are already working to provide positive role models for children, according to the school district’s web site. The men who participate in it are allowed to choose where they will volunteer in the schools. They assist in such areas as mentoring students, making copies for teachers, reading to students, or playing basketball with students after school.

Rhonda Burnough, the community relations liaison for Clayton County Schools, said the main objective of the conference is to encourage men in the community to volunteer, mentor, and find ways to support the school system and its students.

Burnough, also the event’s facilitator, said presenters for this year’s conference include: Alduan Tartt, a motivational speaker; Marcus Jackson, principal at Pointe South Elementary School; Adolphus Graves, of the Fulton County Juvenile Court; Ola Thornton, president of the National Parent Teachers Association; and Garland Watkins, of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.

The core message of the event, Burnough said, will be fashioned after the movie, “Courageous,” which was about four police officers –– who, after tragedy strikes –– learn the importance of fatherhood and being positive male role models in the their community.

“We hope the men will take away [from the conference] that they are important,” said Mundy’s Mill High School Principal Greene. “It’s important for us, as men, to ensure that we help the younger men transition into [adulthood].”