The Good Stuff: Don’t let the streets teach

Inner-city students learning valuable lessons on manhood and avoiding the lure of streets

These elementary-aged kids push back long before the streets can start pulling them in

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Claiborne Fundamental Elementary school resource officer Cpl. Rodney Bradley loves his job.

All of them.

“You doing all right today, Ma’am?," asks Bradley to a parent as a student hops in the backseat during after school carpool.

But even as the sun sets beyond the trees along Portland Avenue, and the last car pulls out of the school parking lot, Bradley doesn’t head home.

At least twice a week he heads back into the school to spend the next hour or so with roughly two dozen Claiborne students.

Shreveport police Cpl. Rodney Bradley watches over members of his Young Distinguished Gentlemen organization during after school rehearsals.
Shreveport police Cpl. Rodney Bradley watches over members of his Young Distinguished Gentlemen organization during after school rehearsals. (Source: KSLA)

“Lets line up,” barks Bradley, escorting the kids from a classroom into the auditorium to rehearse for an upcoming performance.

“When I created this organization, I wanted it to be fun as well,” begins Bradley, explaining why he started the group ‘Young Distinguished Gentlemen’ a year ago.

“I wanted to give back to them and show them about manhood, perseverance, scholarship and uplift."

Some of the students who have joined this organization come from single-parent homes.

Cpl. Rodney Bradley helps a Claiborne student tie his tie.
Cpl. Rodney Bradley helps a Claiborne student tie his tie. (Source: KSLA)

“He wanted to get together a group of boys and show them a few things young boys need to know on their way to manhood,” applauds Claiborne Principal Ellen Hall.

The students get assistance with homework, are learning about gardening, and the importance of listening to the right people while growing up.

“It’s a big tug of war between right and wrong every single day,” says Ronita Odums, whose son Jordan is enjoying his second year with YDG.

Odums says she worries about the lure of the streets as her 5th grader grows older.

“Don’t let the streets teach,” shouts Jordan and other members of YDG during rehearsals which included a fraternity-like stomp procession, as well as a dance routine.

“What I preach to the kids over and over,” Bradley said. “Make decisions today your future self will thank you for.”

Bradley is a 15-year veteran of the Shreveport police department, but he admits even he had to break the generational cycle of the so-called ‘street life’, growing up in the now-demolished Jackson Heights projects in the Allendale neighborhood.

Cpl. Rodney Bradley stands outside a fence where the now demolished Jackson Heights projects used to be located.
Cpl. Rodney Bradley stands outside a fence where the now demolished Jackson Heights projects used to be located. (Source: KSLA)

“Most people you come in contact with who know where you’re from, they try to use that to define who you are,” Bradley said.

Hall praises the work Bradley is doing after hours with the students, especially since the long-time Caddo Parish educator admits she’s painfully seen too many of the districts former students falling victim to the streets.

“We dread watching the news every night, that it’s going to be one of my babies,” reveals Hall, pausing for a moment before finishing her thought.

“I’ve attended the funeral of some of my kids, and that’s not a happy experience.”

Bradley and the students recently collected canned goods and other household items. The donations will be sent to the Providence House.

Now, the group is raising money to take a trip to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in February.

If you would like to donate to help these students make it to Memphis, call Claiborne Fundamental Elementary at (318) 222-2580.

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