On Wednesday, Sept. 20, Arkansas State Police pilots Barry Safflod and Bobby Clemence landed their helicopter on the playground at Taylor Elementary to surprise the fourth and fifth grade boys of the Men In Training (MIT) program.
The program started as a suggestion to three male teachers from Tammie Canada, the school’s principal, two-and-a-half years ago. Due to teachers who have relocated, the group is down to one mentor, fifth grade math and science teacher James Moore.
Moore said the program is designed to give the boys tangible dreams and goals by having successful males within the community come and speak with them about studying hard and demonstrating good moral character.
“The thing I like about MIT is what transpires in their future is based upon their belief that it is possible,” Moore said. “Showing them that it is possible, like introducing them to those pilots and those pilots eating lunch with them, then speaking to them about what it took to get there, will not only encourage them to do right and be leaders, but also it will also let them know that that is a possibility for them to become.”
Last year, Chris Gragg, the tight end for the New York Jets of the National Football League, visited the boys of MIT. Moore said the boys have looked at the military service men, lawyers, politicians, businessmen and anyone else who has visited them with the same admiration that they did a famous football player.
“Hopefully we can keep it going. We’re always looking for positive males to come and speak to them and donations of any sort because of some of these children come from homes that we’ll never be able to understand,” Moore said.
The president of MIT, fifth grader and first-year student at Taylor Elementary Asher Oliver, said he wanted to be a part of the program because of the opportunity to meet the different mentors from the community.  
Shemar Redix, vice president and also fifth grader, said this is his second year in the program, and he remembers wanting to be a part of MIT when it started more than two years ago.
“When we came here, my brother was in the fifth grade, and they had just started MIT. I was in the third grade, so my brother told me about MIT, and he inspired me to be a part of MIT so I did it in the fourth grade … now it’s been two years,” Redix said.
Both boys agreed that their favorite guest speaker so far has been Wes Booker of Booker Insurance agency in White Hall. Booker showed up to the helicopter landing to support the boys. He said he was the first speaker for the group three years ago.
“I got hooked. I saw what they were doing for the kids so I wanted to be involved,” Booker said. “Every school district, every class and every grade should have this program. I know it’s hard to have male role models when there aren’t very many males in the elementary school, but it’s a fabulous program.”
Moore said that because of the help from Booker and many other people within the community, they have been able to keep the program going.  This year they started a tie shop so the boys will have ties, dress slacks and dress shirts to wear on Wednesdays for their meetings.
“I think the program is really starting to hit its stride,” Moore said.