Durham Schools' 'We Are Kings' program making difference for boys of color

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- We Are Kings is a new program in Durham Public Schools aiming to motivate boys of color to be leaders.

Joshua Elmenshawi, 11, from Eno Valley Elementary School is a member of the group. He said the "We Are Kings" program is teaching him valuable lessons.

"I can make a difference in my community, I can stand out, I can be different, I can be better," Joshua said.

Braeden Keith, 10, from Burton Magnet Elementary is proud of the group's name.

"The word 'Kings' means a lot in the word," Braeden said.

The word resonates every time they recite the King's Creed:

I will commit to excellence. I will be respectful of myself and others. I will take complete responsibility for my actions. I will be an agent for change. I will be a reflection for others to follow. I will make success the only option. I will value my education. I am a KING!

Jermaine Porter leads the program that boasts 600 children.

"I get so excited because this is just the beginning," Porter said.

This school year, Porter launched the We Are Kings program in 15 of DPS' elementary, middle and high schools.

Black and brown boys make up 40 percent of Durham Public Schools' student population.

The group's effort is to reduce the achievement gap, school-to-prison pipeline, boost literacy, and motivate students to be leaders.

"The most important way of the Kings is how you carry yourself," Braeden said.

On Tuesday, the students visited the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro where they learned about the national sit-in movement first started at the former Woolworth's diner by four black men at NC A&T State University.

"I think it's important for our future," Porter said. "Students are understanding where they come from. They are our future."

Joshua said he had learned about the Greensboro sit-ins in school but it was special to see the movement in person.

"It made me feel like I was actually there at the time watching it. It was just a great experience knowing your history and what they had to go through in order for segregation to stop," Joshua said.

We Are Kings hosts events, leadership activities and celebrations for members. Coordinators say they have seen improvement in students' grades and better behavior.

DPS hopes the program can be a model for other school districts.

"I feel like it's made a difference in my life," Joshua said. "And it can make a difference in everyone else's."
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