Returning to school is an important time of the year for students, parents, and teachers. But an East Dallas school has turned the first day back into an annual event for everyone else to get involved.

For the third straight year, the Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Florence Middle School will hold a 100 Men Welcome when students return to class on August 20. The goal is to have 100 men (or more) from the community on campus to encourage and support students on their first day.

“It truly does take a village,” said principal Chris Barksdale.

The event is very similar to other mentoring events Dallas ISD has held recently including one which made national headlines when 600 mentors showed up at a Dade Middle School “Breakfast with Dad” event. The school had initially just hoped for 50 volunteers to sit with students who might not have a father figure to attend.

Xavier A. Henderson is organizing this year’s welcome at YMLA and was also one of the mentors at Dade. He is motivated by what he feels is a shared responsibility to raise the future leaders in his community.

“The school is a place for our voice and input,” Henderson said. “At some point, we were all children and there was a village shaping and supporting us.”

The enthusiasm and appreciation he saw from students and previous mentoring events is something that sticks out in Henderson’s mind.

“That joy is a wonderful thing. I think it goes a long way when they meet a stranger that is taking time of their work day. And it carries into the classroom.”

Men interested in taking part in the 100 Men Welcome are asked to be at YMLA at Florence Middle School between 7:45 a.m. to 8:45am on August 20.