07 Mar “Boys in Bow Ties” class helps Williams Elementary School students expand their horizons
Behold the once-ubiquitous bow tie. Originated among Croatian mercenaries in the 17th century, the bow tie was once a common accessory for men and boys in the U.S., but is now something that is mostly limited to formal occasions.
This is not the case, however, at Wendell P. Williams Elementary School, where the 14 students in the school’s “Boys in Bow Ties” enrichment class wear bow ties. The ties mean a lot more than looking classy at school. For Boys in Bow Ties teacher Keorris Berry, the bow tie symbolizes the butterfly, which starts out as a caterpillar and eventually becomes a beautiful creature that can spread its wings and fly.
Berry, a Las Vegas native who attended Williams as a child, tells his students that a caterpillar is transformed into something completely new. “It gets rid of the old me, then flourishes and becomes a butterfly.” He also talks about the diversity of butterflies, noting they come in a variety of colors. He said, “We as humans are like butterflies. We’re all different. But we can all broaden our horizons and make the right choices to succeed.”
Success is what Boys in Bow Ties is all about. Berry said, “If you’re a young male, many things are trying to pull at you and maybe bring you down. But you can choose to shed the bad things around you and become something beautiful and great.”
As a mentoring program, Boys in Bow Ties aims to empower students in a community where many students live in extremely challenging circumstances. Along those lines, Berry said his students have strengthened their relationships at home as well as with their teachers and other authority figures in the community. “I’ve seen a big reduction in the suspension rate. This class gives students an incentive to push a little bit harder and to succeed.” He said they also serve as an inspiration to other students at Williams. “More and more of our boys are asking to be Boys in Bow Ties.”
All the boys in the Bow Ties class were nominated by their parents. In order to qualify, they had to be in the school’s tutoring program. The classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday, and Berry said the students must follow the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
Principal Cynthia Ireland praised the class, which she and Assistant Principal Rajul Edmond established last November, utilizing grant funds from 21st Century Tutoring. Ireland said, “The boys learn skills such as leadership and communication that will stay with them their entire lives.”
Ireland added, “Mr. Berry can truly relate to his students because he attended this school and grew up in this neighborhood. He has buy-in from students and they listen to him. He truly inspires his students to be the best they can be.”
Ireland said she hopes to make Boys with Bow Ties a permanent institution at Williams Elementary. “We want to continue empowering our students for years to come.”