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Avon Men of Purpose is Increasing Belonging and Engagement

A new club is improving climate at AHS and beyond

“My name is ___, and I’m a man of purpose.”

The belief that people are the product of their life’s purpose and the desire to help students thrive at Avon High School and beyond is what drove Dean of Students Dr. Aaron Willis to begin Avon Men of Purpose (AMP).

The mission of Avon Schools is ‘all belong, learn, and grow’. That will only become a reality as students increasingly understand and experience that they are not only welcome and accepted, but that they play a vital role in their community. AMP is an AHS-based extension of Avon’s mission; it is helping students belong, learn, and grow.

We’re constantly encouraging students to leave Avon better than it was when they found it.
Dr. Aaron Willis, Avon High School Dean

“Although all students are invited to participate, the gist was the desire to bring Black male students together to show them that they are wanted and valued at Avon High School,” says Willis. “Every single time we start an AMP meeting, we have students say their name and state that they are a man of purpose. The biggest thing is helping them understand that they do have a purpose in life.” Through relatable and motivating presentations, school administrators, business owners, community leaders, and other special guests provide students with a glimpse of what their futures might contain.

“Working with students is my passion. Having the chance to speak with students about being accountable for the work they inevitably must do was my pleasure,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Sullivan, who recently took a turn as guest speaker at an AMP meeting. “AMP provides a great opportunity for young men to see themselves as more than Avon students. They are truly the future of Avon.”

Backed by district and AHS leaders, Willis longs to see young men understand their purpose, gain confidence, and open their minds to the multiple options they have in life while refusing to restrict themselves to the narrow selection of choices to which they may feel limited.

AMP provides a great opportunity for young men to see themselves as more than Avon students. They are truly the future of Avon.
Dr. Michael Sullivan, Assistant Superintendent

AMP is more than just what happens at meetings. The strategy has multiple facets: bringing students together regularly to provide insight and encouragement, raising the level of mutual accountability, equipping students to use their talents to volunteer in and around school and the community, and inspiring them to embrace the future. Plans are underway for student-led service projects and a lunch buddy program at Avon’s primary schools.

Earlier this week, AMP students visited Avon Intermediate School West to mentor and encourage 5th- and 6th-grade students. "The Avon Men of Purpose made a lasting impact on the young men of AIS West in just a short time," says Principal Amber Walters. "I hope they see that their presence and leadership is making a difference for younger students. They now have so many young men looking up to them and beginning to see themselves in them. I am so excited to see this partnership grow."

According to Willis, the work is also well underway at AHS. One of the simplest and most effective roles AMP students have begun to step into is that of hallway monitor. These students are taking it upon themselves to set an example, to help their peers get to class on time, and to raise the level of accountability in the crowded hallways at AHS.

“We emphasize that we can't change the world until we change ourselves,” says Willis, before noting the growth he’s already seeing among AMP students. “We’re slowly chipping away at it. We’re constantly encouraging students to leave Avon better than it was when they found it.”

“As time goes by,” says Willis, “we're going to keep doing more and more things to get where we're going.” The group is already creating a more inclusive, welcoming, unified Avon High School, and there is much more to come.