FLORENCE — Sometimes being a role model for youth simply starts with a warm greeting.

This morning, before the starting school bell rang at Hibbett Middle School, students entering the building received high-fives, fist bumps and encouraging words from more than a dozen men in the community. 

Dressed in suits and other work attire representing their occupations, the "Welcome to School" committee of men were there for a united purpose: to encourage good choices and a focus on education.

Organizer Wesley Thompson said the idea came from a similar Atlanta initiative whereby black male leadership took an active role of encouraging students as they entered their school buildings.

The Shoals native said he wanted to re-create the same positive experience for children in the Shoals by signifying that they, too, can work hard in school and be among the community's leadership such as educators, pastors, business owners, entrepreneurs, doctors, police, computer engineers or any number of professions.

"I made contact with not only black men but all men I know here in our area to meet at a few schools to greet students upon their return to school," Thompson said. 

Last week, the group did the same at Sheffield Head Start and Florence Head Start.

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