BY JATIKA HUDSON
The last day of school is usually filled with pranks, mischievous behavior, fights, and all sorts of shenanigans that happy-go-lucky students do at the end of the school year. But for The Great Carver Middle School, the school year ended vastly different thanks to the presence of more than 20 men from Frito-Lay and the local community.
When conducting a search to learn more about the Title I school, the headlines spoke volumes: “13-year-old arrested on attempted murder charge,” “Gunshots fired near Carver,” “Fights, Guns near Carver…” Throughout this year, the local school has witnessed several town halls, all focused on addressing student safety concerns.
Up to 98% of MAN UP’s mentees attend or formerly attended Carver Middle School. For this reason, Chris Wallace, the Co-Founder of MAN UP Mentoring, Inc. (MAN UP) felt it was his responsibility to help change this narrative and it was even more critical that this charge was led by men of color from the local community.
Wallace contacted STAR 94.5’s radio personality Monica May to put out a call for men from the local area to show up and help invest in the safety and well-being of Carver’s students on the last day of school. He is proud and grateful for the community and corporate support received, especially from Frito-Lay, his employer of 34 years. “These students are a vital part of the community that I live in, and that Frito-Lay is located. It’s important for corporations that are in our communities to reach back, give back, and let the communities know that they are here to truly invest and support them,” he explained.
“My soul was fed seeing the kids smiling, the men getting involved to protect and encourage them, and to know each child arrived home safely, Wallace shared, “It was truly a beautiful day, one filled with excitement, encouragement, camaraderie, safety, and strength.”
Following the event, he received a call from one of the volunteers who said he was proud to be a part of this event and to let him know the next time there’s another event such as this one.
As the students exited the school doors, they received support provided by Carver’s partner in education, Frito-Lay. In the words of Samuel Danner, Carver’s principal, “Excitement took over the school, especially for the faculty and staff, because we had other individuals that cared about our children to come and support the campus.”
Danner went on to share, “We immediately felt an overwhelming sense of pride. This type of partnership uplifts the community at large. It shows our students how much they, as well as our school, are cared about and supported. Frito-Lay associates and the men from the local community really came through for us, because a lot times, [people] don’t show up. You cannot imagine what we felt to see all the men coming into the school in preparation for the student send-off,” he recalled.
The expressions of love hold immense significance for the faculty, staff and most importantly, the students at Carver Middle School. Recognizing the need to prevent potential conflicts and violence among students, Danner understood that the presence of Black and Brown men would convey a profound and meaningful message to their students. It would serve as a reassuring testament that individuals who resembled them not only cared deeply but also made a genuine effort to be present – a sentiment often lacking in their home lives, Danner frequently observes among many of his students.
Partnerships like this have helped Carver Middle School grow expeditiously, garnering more support from the local community and the positive impact is evident throughout the school. “Having individuals that look like our children in different roles and capacities in the workforce exposes our students to different opportunities and also brings the community together.”
Principal Danner concluded by saying, The Last Day of School Send-off Event was a win not only for the students and the school, but the community at large. We ended the year with a bang!”