Before the morning bell on Wednesday, a group of Green Magnet students gathered in the library to see what a new group was about.
A towering man introduced himself as Mr. C and welcomed everyone to the first meeting of Real Talk the school had held in years.
Real Talk, a mentoring program for elementary and middle school students, started over a dozen years ago at Vine Middle with only four students. The group now serves over 375 students weekly in eight schools across the district, and they hope to add five more before the end of the year.
“I started the program because I didn’t want kids to go through some of the things that I was going through at that time in life,” said Real Talk Founder and KCS Talent Acquisition Specialist Clarence Swearengen.
Years ago, he walked a path full of “dark days,” and one day almost lost his life. He then vowed to make a change – not only for him, but also for the young people in his community.
Steering students away from a criminal lifestyle, Real Talk focuses on positive role models and eye-opening experiences.
“Some speakers are pastors that were once gang members who have transformed their lives into productive citizens doing really, really good stuff for our community,” he said. “They decide to pour into our youth.”
The program curriculum aligns with the district’s Four Priorities, especially in career empowerment and preparation. Real Talk hits the road to go on college tours, explore military bases, and visit job sites to expose the group to as many positive opportunities as possible.
Swearengen said he witnesses the power of the program when former students return to Real Talk as guest speakers.
“When you see that transformation, you know your program is successful,” he said.
United Way sponsors the program, but groups interested in providing additional support can visit realtalkmp.org.