The Blue Tie Club Connectors unanimously decided to reach out to young people early in their lives to make community connections and provide engaged learning opportunities to make a positive impact on the children’s lives. The group met with Thomas Webster, the principal of Jesse Bobo Elementary, a Title I school in Spartanburg, and we discovered the “Blue Tie Club.” The Blue Tie Club is a group of 20 fifth graders – all young men previously identified by the school’s faculty as being in need of extra attention and opportunity for success – who meet after school for various character-building exercises. This team found the group lacked resources and community support, so the goal became to expose these kids to unique opportunities they might otherwise never experience through the group’s passion and efforts as Blue Tie Club Connectors.

The team selected four events for Blue Tie Club members to participate in during four Fridays after school during the 2016-2017 school year: one arts program, one community engagement program, one S.T.E.M. project, and one recreation and safety activity, For the first event in October, the Blue Tie Club Connectors have partnered with Jeff Holland, a local drummer with Drum4work, an organization which works with students throughout the state to complement the related arts curriculum currently provided in schools.  Mr. Holland brings different drums into the classroom to teach students the diverse cultural backgrounds of each instrument and how they can be used as a means of improving communication, forming connections to rhythms and to other people, and building communities. During his program, Mr. Holland emphasizes that each person’s musical contribution is special and that music can be a source of team-building, as well as an expression of individual strength.

The second event will be a culinary field trip to Denny’s headquarters in November, during which the kids will be given a behind the scenes tour of a commercial test kitchen, including taste tests and instruction on proper dining etiquette.  Denny’s will also provide each child with a gift card to allow them to treat a parent or guardian to dinner at Denny’s. The third event will be a S.T.E.M. project in the spring to provide a hands-on exercise in conjunction with the “force in motion” segment of the 5th grade curriculum. Students will design, construct, and launch a soda bottle rocket to see whose rocket can provide the longest range. The final event will be a bike safety program during which the kids will be offered bikes to ride, along with helmets and bells. They will also learn bicycle safety.

To fund these projects, each Blue Tie Club Connector member will provide $100 initially for a $900 budget. The funds will be used to purchase snacks, shirts, ties, and other project needs for the students.  Also, Denny’s and Michelin have agreed to a three-year commitment of $500 per year, giving the project $3,900 in seed capital. The team members are actively seeking community partners to provide sustainability for the program, including The United Way, the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, the Spartanburg County Foundation, One Hundred Black Men, and various colleges in the Spartanburg area.