Members of the Hillsdale College Football team are used to volunteering for the community. But this year, they’re doing it differently. Together, they’re encouraging young men in fourth grade at Gier Elementary School to “look good, feel good, do good.”
Called “Guys with Ties,” the club, which started in September, gives young boys an opportunity to learn life skills from older role models. Every three weeks during the lunch hour, the 4th graders and the football players dress in shirts and ties.
The very first thing the fourth graders learned: tying a tie. Offensive Coordinator Nate Shreffler explained that looking good catches the attention of others, and it’s important to know how to use that attention for good.
“Part of my goal is to help the kids understand they have control over their environment and can impact the kids around them,” Shreffler said. “It’s positive for everyone.”
As members of the club, the boys will learn practical skills, such as ways to conduct themselves, to look people in the eye, and to give a good handshake. Shreffler said that they will learn good dining etiquette, and will talk about goal-setting. But Shreffler also wants to teach them kindly and with integrity.
“Doing the right thing when no one’s looking, showing gratitude towards others,” he said.
During one of the first meetings, the fourth graders and volunteers, dressed in their ties, stood by the front doors of Gier, greeting each person. Being part of the welcoming group showed the boys that even the small things make a big difference.
“I think the kids saw how many smiles they generated,” Shreffler said.
Senior Chance Stewart said that spending time at Gier makes an impact on the boys in the club.
“For them it’s a big deal,” he said. “They don’t want us to leave, and they have big smiles.”
About 14 to 16 members of the football team are involved, Shreffler said. Senior Drew Callahan said that he hopes the kids in the club have fun, but also learn from the college students to have someone to look up to.
“Something that’s not taught in school is how to become men of character,” Callahan said. “It’s special, a group of guys learning from other guys.”
The club started to become reality about a year ago, when Shreffler’s wife, who is a teacher at Gier, learned about a similar club at the school that Shreffler’s brother sends his children in Canton, Ohio.
While he’s the self-proclaimed “nuts and bolts” person, “she’s the one that really got it off the ground,” he said.
Callahan said that he thinks aiming the club at 4th graders was intentional.
“During their teenage years they learn to be independent, and middle school can be tough trying to fit in,” he said. “We want to teach them to be their own person now, and they can fall back on that in middle school.”
The club is a great opportunity for the football team to volunteer, and expose the kids to rockstar players who are also upstanding people, he said.
“We’ve had a ton of fun — all the guys really enjoy it,” Callahan said.