HUNTERSVILLE – Twenty Hopewell High School students took the step into “gentleman hood” when inducted into the school’s Gentlemen’s Club April 11.

The Gentlemen’s Club, founded by Stephen G. Peters and the Peters Group Foundation in 1996, teamed with Hopewell High to pilot the program in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. It provides participants opportunities to enhance self-esteem and stresses academic success, gentleman-like behavior and community service. Members meet with facilitators each Thursday.

The program has gained international attention and was featured on Oprah.

Peters, who has 28 years experience in education, welcomed the Hopewell students into the club via Skype.

The students, dressed in a black pants and white collard shirt were inducted by receiving a tie with the letters ‘G’ and ‘C’ monogrammed on it.

Prior to induction, they were addressed by Christian Friend, executive director of planning and evaluation for Project L.I.F.T., who encouraged them to be part of the African American and Latino male story that was about belief, leadership and excellence rather than the too-often told side of failure, lack of success and academic strife.

“These shirts and ties mean something,” Friend told them. “You’re not just putting on shirt and tie, you’re putting on belief, you’re putting on leadership, and you’re putting on excellence.”

Together, students recited the Gentlemen’s Club pledge, which students promised to act with integrity, respect others and themselves, claim responsibility for their actions and be consistent.

N.C. Sen. Malcolm Graham congratulated each student when they received their tie and applauded Hopewell High for taking the initiative on implementing the program.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake told parents that it was their responsibility to support their sons in upholding the pledge and encouraged students to always remember what this event meant.

“You’re going to be somebody’s father. You’re going to be somebody’s husband,” she said. “And I beg you to exhibit then what you learned today.”

Students who joined the club applied after its creation was widely advertised in the school and to parents, Hopewell High Principal Mike Jones said.

Junior Dajon Lacey became interested after watching a video that explained the program.

“I got to see how proud and how uplifted people were after joining this club,” Lacey said.

His mother Kathy beamed with pride as she spoke about her son, who is heavily involved in school activities, AP courses and community service groups.

“I just want him to continue to be the best man he can be,” she said. “Being the gentleman that he is and having this program is just reinforcing what we’re trying to teach him (at home).”

Jones said the program will provide participants with inspiration and motivation for academic achievement, leadership development, community service and personal growth, but it will also benefit the wider school community.

“We’re teaching these gentlemen to be role models for others,” he said. “We’re also going to have these gentlemen to mentor others outside of the program in the school.”