What started out as random hallway and office conversations between students and Oak Mountain High School Assistant Principal Matthew Epps has now grown into an organized school club that meets twice a month to teach leadership, life skills, and other important topics to male students. Young Men on the Mountain is open to all male students but currently is attended mainly by minority students due to the organic way in which it formed.
“Young Men on the Mountain was formed through conversations with some male students who expressed the desire to have a place to meet during SOAR60 to discuss things that were relevant to them,” said Epps. “After sitting down with a few of them, they gave me topics and I reached out to some males in a variety of professions to come and share their successes and failures and how they persevered.”
Guest speakers to date have included Justin Williams—a realtor/business entrepreneur from Just-In-Time Realty Group, Zainu Tamimu—assistant principal at Sun Valley Elementary, and some of Epps’ fraternity brothers from Kappa Alpha Psi.
Richard Cade, founder of The Man Project—a non-profit mentoring program based in Birmingham reached out to Epps and began sending speakers also. Epps has invited Superintendent Lewis Brooks to speak at a future meeting along with Gary Johnson, a senior linebacker at the University of Texas. Former Alabama football players Chris Rogers, the founder of the TAP mentoring program, and Brandon Brooks, who now works as a financial advisor/investor are also slated to be future speakers.
Epps said he can already see the difference the program is making in the young men it is reaching.
“One thing I have seen is two kids that previously had a conflict have now bonded as a result of this program,” Epps said. “Because of the leadership lessons, I also have observed a young man who is picking up trash in the lunchroom.”
Glynel Humphrey, one of the students participating in the club, recently emailed Epps to thank him for starting a club that really focuses on young men of color. Despite being an athlete and active member of the Student Government Association, Humphrey said he still often felt lost and under-represented—until now.
“I love that you have invited young men from each grade to join the club and the idea of dressing up professionally on the days we have meetings is a great way to bring positive attention to the young men of Oak Mountain,” Humphrey wrote in his email to Epps.
Humphrey goes on to suggest future topics for discussion, various opportunities for bonding and team-building activities.
“This ensures that we hold each other accountable and grow to love our fellow brothers,” he wrote.
Epps said Young Men on the Mountain club members are already coming up with ways to support and show their love to fellow member Taelyn Carter, whose father Sergeant Wyt Carter was recently killed in the line of duty while serving with the Birmingham Police Department.