EPD partners with District 65 for student mentorship program

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Syd Stone/The Daily Northwestern

Nichols Middle School Principal Adrian Harries talks with two students in the Officer and Gentlemen Academy about the business plans they created. The students learned about business and entrepreneurship as a part of their weekly class Wednesday.

Syd Stone, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston Police Department’s Officer and Gentlemen Academy hosted local business owners Wednesday for a day dedicated to learning about entrepreneurship.

OGA is a partnership program between EPD and Evanston/Skokie School District 65. The 12-week program is intended to mentor male students who are black and are in 6th to 8th grade. The program begins weekly after tutoring sessions for the middle school students, includes a weekly lesson about what it means to be a “gentleman,” and concludes with facilitators and students eating dinner together family-style.

Students in the program were selected by Nichols Middle School Principal Adrian Harries and all come from different backgrounds.

EPD officer Adam Howard, the academy facilitator, said some students come from single-parent households with no paternal figure, while others are struggling academically or dealing with behavioral issues.

“All of them have … leadership qualities within, and we felt that they could really benefit from this program and learn valuable life lessons,” Howard said.

Howard started the program with Harries and Bryon Harris, student engagement coordinator for Evanston/Skokie School District 65. Howard said the three men all had similar ideas and goals for a male mentorship program. He said he hopes to expand the program to other schools in the community in the future.

Since the beginning of March, the group of about 15 students has met every Wednesday afternoon in the Nichols Middle School library.

So far, the students have learned how to tie a tie, give a firm handshake and set goals. They have also had lessons in team building.

This week, academy facilitators invited Hecky Powell of Hecky’s Barbecue, 1902 Green Bay Rd., and Clarence Weaver of C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, 1901 Church St., to talk to the students about starting a business and how to think innovatively.

For their lesson on entrepreneurship, the students were tasked with creating their own business plans to present to Powell and Weaver. Harries encouraged the students to “think outside of the box,” embrace their individual passions and to “think big.”

Weaver said he created his business, C & W Market and Ice Cream Parlor, with his wife, Wendy, specifically to be a place for students and young people to get food. He emphasized that good behavior can have a big impact on how successful someone becomes and that individuality is the key to success in business.

“Never forget who you are and where you come from,” he said. “Don’t just limit yourself to one idea. Every success that you make can be built off of an unsuccessful act.”

Powell echoed Weaver’s sentiments and spoke about the importance of a good work ethic. The business owner shared his story of purchasing and supporting his barbecue restaurant, saying it required a lot of time and work.

“I went on faith that I could make this happen, I believed in what I was doing and I worked hard,” he said.

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