By John Balson @JJBalson

YOUNG inner-city boys are being pulled away from the lure of crime and drugs by learning how to act and dress like dapper gentlemen

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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: John Balson, Ruby Coote
Editor: James Thorne

Boys With A Purpose: These children are attending a class that turns youngsters into dapper gentlemen

The Boys With a Purpose programme set up in Charleston, South Carolina, teaches etiquette and self-respect to children aged 7-11.

Every week the group of boys practice how to shake hands, hold eye-contact and learn how to dress well - with the aim of giving them a brighter future.

Some of the boys come from single-parent households or areas that are deemed ‘high-risk’ for crime.

Golden handshake: Smartly dressed Charles Manigault, 11, and DeMarco Finley, seven, practice hand-shakes

The non-profit club is being is run by Raymond Nelson, Kenneth Joyner and Abraham Champagne, who are all teachers at Memminger Elementary School in the downtown area of the city.

Mr Joyner, who is originally from Washington, DC, said: “It doesn’t matter what background you come from, every boy needs a positive male role model in his life.

“I grew up without my father and that was tough.

Minor adjustment: Teacher Kenneth Joyner teaches Junias Gallashaw, seven, how to tie a tie

"I was raised by a single mum and she did a phenomenal job and I just always wanted to be able to do something to give back.

“Some of our boys come from single-family homes, some are staying with grandma because their parents aren’t there, and some have both their parents at home and we just act as a support.”

The club was initially started in January 2016 by Mr Nelson to combat misbehavior at the school.

Making a difference: Teachers Raymond Nelson (left), Kenneth Joyner (right) and Abraham Champagne run the club together

The father of one said: “We had some incidents where boys would talk back to their teachers and get in fights and be disrespectful - and that’s why we try to push the whole point of respect.

“Our definition of a gentleman is someone who respects themselves, respects other and is polite to others.

“It’s not just about holding doors open for ladies, it’s about doing that for anyone.

Looking sharp: Student Michael Williams, 10, poses for photographs in Charleston, SC

Tashana Mitchell’s son DeMarco, seven, attends Boys With A Purpose and she and her partner have been impressed by the skills he has learned.

“I am honoured that my son is a part of this wonderful dynamic group. It warms my heart that these gentlemen take time out to mould our future men,” she said.

Single mother Raquel Manigault’s son Charles, 11, also attends the programme and she is grateful for the additional support.

She said: “It means a lot to me because I feel that boys need a positive role model.

Tie shopping: Kenneth Joyner shopping with Charles Manigault, 11, Zion Brewer, 11, and Devyn Lapeus, 10

“We’ve seen them change a lot. When we see the impact on how they feel when someone helps them or they help someone else, let’s us know they are grasping what we are trying to teach them.”

The club’s motto is Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good - and part of the lessons revolves about being able to dress well, tie ties and bowties and to take pride in their appearance.

“Looking good does something to a man, I don’t care where he’s from,” Mr Joyner added.

“When he looks good, he feels a different way - he walks a different way wearing a suit and tie.”

Model student: Charles Manigault, 11, has been attending the class for two years

“Some other guys look at it like he [Charles] is a nerd or a geek - but I see it as he’s growing up to be a young man.

“Every school in Charleston County, no, worldwide, needs to look at getting this into their schools.”

Following the early success of the programme, the Boys With A Purpose team hope to be able to start college scholarships for members.

Perfect Gents: Ten of the children from the Boys With A Purpose programme pose for a group picture

They would also like to expand it to the rest of the America.

Mr Joyner added: “It’s not hard for us to give up our time when we think about the hundreds, thousands and millions of kids who don’t have this kind of support, who are being lost every single day to the streets, drugs, violence and different things.

Going places: Teachers Raymond Nelson and Kenneth Joyner (picture L-R) and Abraham Champagne have plans to expand the programme

"So when we think about that we think about saving one child.

“It’s an honour for us to be doing this.”

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