Warren Pete knows what his students' lives are like. He grew up just like they did.
Pete graduated from John Marshall High School and now he's one of the assistant principals there.
“I wasn't supposed to make it,” he said, “but somebody believed in me.”
An older student took Pete under his wing when the struggling student was only 13. His mentor asked him where he was going to college. He told him to stay out of trouble and stay in class. He helped Pete find his way.
So Pete created a program designed to give other boys at John Marshall a similar experience. It's called Project BOLD: Bridging Opportunities for Leadership Development.
Seventh-grade boys go to a class Pete teaches during the week, and they spend every other Saturday at school. A program for girls is in the works.
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One bright Saturday morning, the library at John Marshall smelled like waffles after the group of teen boys and their mentors finished eating breakfast cooked by Pete's wife and other volunteers.
Mary Teal, an assistant accounting professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, addressed the students.
“You become ready for your position in life — because you have one,” Teal said. “You just have to travel to get there.”
She encouraged them to stay out of trouble and always “have something to do tomorrow.”
She asked them what they wanted to do and hands shot up. Go into the military. Become an engineer. Sell real estate. Develop new technology. Cure cancer.
Those aspirations are reachable, Pete said, if students are willing to work. Project BOLD is designed to teach the connection between goals, education and staying out of trouble.
“We want them to reach their dreams,” Pete said. “They have to understand that ‘just enough' isn't enough.”
Tanisha Dews, a counselor for Brighter Days Youth and Family Services, is one of the Project BOLD mentors.
“I'm here because I want to be that role model,” Dews said. “They're learning, and I'm learning how to be a better mentor.”
The age group is a good one to target, she said, because students are still open to advice and guidance from others.
“This is a critical age,” Dews said. “They make decisions on their own, but you can still guide them.”
Project BOLD student Calvin Walton, 13, was in the program last year as well, when it was for sixth-graders. He likes the class, the speakers and especially the mentors.
“The mentors, they are here for a reason,” he said. “They are here to help us succeed.”
Walton has a clear idea of what success looks like for him. He said his goal is to become an engineer and design his own car. Project BOLD will help him get there, he said.
“It will help me with my school and keep me out of trouble,” Walton said. “It's helping me do the right thing, like making right decisions and stuff.”
That's what Pete likes to hear.
“I want them to feel pride,” he said. “I want them to feel they matter.”