Members of the Westfield High School Young Men’s Mentoring Organization gathered together with their faculty sponsors for a recent career exploration trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
HOUSTON – June 7, 2018 – Continuing a Westfield High School tradition of looking for new ways to promote student growth and involvement on the campus, Principal David Mason teamed up with several faculty members earlier this spring to launch a Young Men’s Mentoring Organization.
Now, less than four months since its founding, the group – made up of about 50 Westfield freshmen and sophomores – has already partnered with Habitat for Humanity for a service project and embarked on a career exploration trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
“Coming to Westfield as principal,” Mason said, “I had a vision of us increasing student groups here, and one group I wanted to work with myself was a male group that we could be role models for. The goal was to actually get a group of young men, work with them for a couple of years, and then, by the time they’re juniors and seniors, they become ambassadors for the campus.”
Through involvement in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.’s Houston-area Youth Leadership Conference, the Westfield group found its first official service opportunity earlier this spring – a Habitat for Humanity building project to provide a brand-new, affordable home for a Houston family in need.
“We talk a lot about being good examples,” Mason said. “And it’s good for us to talk about it, but it’s better if we can show it, and have people see it. Then, it makes communicating it a lot easier.”
In recruiting the group’s founding student members, Mason and several Westfield faculty members – including teachers Ramon Chin-Young, Marcus Ford and Javid Milton – put out a call for interested underclassmen, with an emphasis on attracting a diverse group of students with different interests and abilities.
“The things that we focus on in the program are self-autonomy, leadership and scholarship,” Mason said. “If we do those three things, if we build on those three things, we’ll build successful young men.”
Another aspect of the mentoring program is reinforcing college and career readiness. Mason said that’s happening both through direct one-on-one mentoring and activities like the group’s recent NASA trip, where students learned more about how the space program works, including the many different types of career paths that help support it.
“They really explained how NASA isn’t just one company,” Mason said. “It’s really a bunch of different companies that make up NASA, and each part helps make up the whole. And that goes back to this group that we’re creating. No one person leads this group; we’re all a part of this. So every part contributing makes our group successful.”
The group has more service projects in the works, including optional summer projects that students can participate in. By continuing to join in the ongoing service work and mentoring activities, members will earn the right to wear a special blazer – complete with the Westfield crest – to help mark their commitment to continued academic and personal growth.
“It relates back to learning what it means to be a man,” Mason said. “Because no one thing makes you a man. It’s handling a bunch of responsibilities, setting an example, being dependable, but also helping others. If we don’t help or build a bridge for someone, we’re missing a component of being a complete man, or a successful man, or even just being a contributing member to society. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re bridge-builders.”
Mason noted that the mentoring program wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the school’s faculty and central administrators, like School Leadership Officer Kimberly Fonteno, who have offered support.
“I’m thankful that I have these other staff members working on the program, like Mr. Chin-Young, Mr. Ford, and Mr. Milton. They’re great guys who set great examples for students, and they’ve really helped to make this happen. And I appreciate our administrative team members who have been a part of it. Ms. Fonteno has done several things to help our organization, and we’re very thankful for that.”
Asked about his long-term hopes for the program’s growth, Mason said he’s not aiming for a certain number of students, preferring instead to focus on the qualities and traits he hopes to instill in those who make the choice to sign on and commit themselves.
“My goal for the organization is to build something that stands over time, not just here under my leadership,” Mason said. “We really push self-autonomy. You’ve just got to have self-discipline. Self-discipline is not me always telling you what you need to do. It’s you knowing what you need to do. Of course, those things that you don’t know, we teach. But once you learn, it’s about self-discipline.
“Self-discipline leads to everything else.”