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March 8, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron launched

by Srividya Murthy, Print Managing News Editor
Assistant Principal Dirk Cauley and Blair Sports Academy director Jose Segura have piloted a leadership program, Iron Sharpens Iron, to empower male Latino students at Blair.

The program consists of 22 students from all grades, programs and levels who convene weekly to build leadership qualities and discuss issues they face in their academic and personal lives.

"We wanted to create a leadership development group for students with extremely good leadership potentials that were recognized by teachers, with a focus on trying to develop high school young men," said Cauley.

Cauley said that there is a heightened need to encourage leadership among Latino students, the largest racial subgroup at Blair. This year, almost 28 percent of students enrolled at Blair are Latino. Cauley is concerned that the largest population at Blair also has the highest ineligibility rate and the lowest graduation rate in the school. Iron Sharpens Iron is designed to reduce this gap in achievement.

Cauley created the group based on models he found successful at previous schools at which he worked, including Argyle and Kennedy. Students participating in Iron Sharpens Iron were selected by Blair staff members who nominated Latino male students with leadership potential. The group has met weekly since Feb. 10 in the Career Center, and it will continue to meet until May 10.

During several meetings, Latino members of the community are invited to speak to students about issues that they face and options ahead of them. "It gives them opportunities to see professional, successful Latino men," said Cauley. "These people want to speak to them and to motivate, to inspire them to become leaders in community."

The group's name is an analogy to the sharpening of a knife. "These are young men that are strong and going to work together to make themselves sharper and better," said Cauley. Each of the topics discussed begins with a letter of the acronym "Iron Sharpens Iron."

In addition to efforts to integrate Latino students, Assistant Principal Alicia Deeny is striving to promote more Latino parent involvement at Blair. Deeny said that Latino parent attendance at PTSA meetings is poor, and she wants to ensure that these parents become more involved in their students' academic lives. "We want to make Blair a place where Hispanics can be more successful," she said.

In early February, Deeny spoke at a PTSA-sponsored meeting with 40 to 50 Latino parents at Blair. At the meeting, parents discussed aspects of Blair that they liked and disliked, as well as their goals for their students, including graduation.

"We want to make Latino parents feel that they are part of this school. I was excited to hear what they had to share. That is valuable info to improve the school in general," Deeny said.



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