Danville, VA - A coalition of young men at George Washington High School is helping local middle school boys become gentlemen.
The "Gentlemen by Choice" program enables 21 seniors from GW to mentor their middle school counterparts and serve as positive role models.
By participating in the program, they get a chance to set an example for younger students, but they also are learning life skills that will prepare them for success after high school.
"Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a gentleman is a matter of choice."
That's the motto the young men live by.
Every Tuesday morning, they spread that message to other young men at O.T. Bonner Middle School.
"When I was in middle school, it was really an impressionable time. We're good role models... somebody that the kids can hope to emulate, " said the group's president William Judge Browning.
Many of the middle school participants have returned after participating last year when the group was still very new.
"Some of these students were selected just as students who might benefit from working with a peer, maybe having a mentor. We have seen some improved discipline and some better decision making from our students who have been involved, " said O.T. Bonner Principal Larry Bailey.
GW Assistant Principal Larry Toomer started the program last year and has watched it grow.
After selecting the mentors for the program's debut, he is now giving the guys a chance to nominate their successors.
"Our kids are setting a great tone. They're focused, they're concerned about their future, they are concerned about their community and certainly they represent the school extremely well, " Toomer said.
The young gentlemen hope that their peers at GW will continue their mission.
"We have like 26, 27 guys who are juniors at GW who want to be members so, we have a bright future, " Browning said.
They also hope the difference they make in the lives of their mentees will inspire them to carry that torch as well.
"We're hoping that they'll come back later on and they'll be the ones coming back to Bonner and working with our new group of students, " said Bailey.
During the first semester, business professionals in the community came and spoke to the high school group.
Now, in the second semester, they use what they've learned as the curriculum for the middle schoolers.
The overall GPA for the group is a 3.5 and they are all college bound.