We first met Lawrence Simmons as the Student Responsibility Coordinator at Thurston High School. Students with excessive tardiness or behavioral problems are sent to his classroom as a first level discipline to begin to correct the issues before going up the chain of command for further actions to be taken. Mr. Simmons’ room is quite sterile, white walls, a chalkboard, and a few inspirational quotes and rules sporadically placed around the room. As students come to his class he takes the opportunity to get to know them one-on-one, beyond what a traditional teacher is able to do. He converses with them to find out their hopes dreams and future aspirations. During this exchange, an idea that he began to develop nearly ten years ago resurfaced in his mind and he thought that this would be the prefect opportunity and platform to revisit it and bring it to fruition.
B.O.O.K.S Building Opportunities by Organizing Kids Success is born! This is a mentoring program designed to encourage students to read books beyond their required reading. Through this program, Simmons hopes to help students find a topic or subject of their interest that will open up their minds to future opportunities. He has “coined” the title of being a “creative mentor” meaning he helps guide ideas and gets students to begin to think about their future.
PBS reported in an online article; Fact Sheet: Outcomes for Young Black Men, that African American men scored below their counterparts in other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to graduation rates, literacy rates, and college preparedness. Only 14% of African-American eighth graders score at or above the proficient level. These results reveal that millions of young people cannot understand or evaluate text, provide relevant details, or support inferences about the written documents they read.
Although B.O.O.K.S will not be available as a full program in Thurston High School until the 2016-2017 school year, Simmons hopes to make an effort to change the literacy statistics in not only young African-American men but also all students who are dreamers. Within the next five years, he would like to see a B.O.O.K.S. program available in all southeast Michigan schools.