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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Forming the Next Generation with the Sundale Gents

Jan 30, 2020 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

A True Gentleman

February 2020
Story by Rachel Trigueiro

CHIVALRY IS  not dead. True gentlemen still exist, but they aren’t born, they are formed. Brandon Dodson of Tulare has made it his mission to keep chivalry alive by shaping the next generation of young men.

Born and raised in Tulare, football player and graduate of University of Montana, three-time America Ninja Warrior competitor, father and fourth-grade teacher at Sundale Union Elementary, Dodson had the desire to make a difference and start a boys’ club that made an impact.

Not entirely sure how he wanted to approach the group, Dodson was inspired by an article floating around Facebook about a counselor in South Carolina who started an at-risk youth gentleman’s club and Dodson says, “In good teacher fashion, I ran with the idea and made it my own.” 

Dodson pitched the idea to his school administration and says, “They supported me 100 percent and funded my goal to provide suits and ties for each of the boys to wear every Monday for our school’s designated professional attire day. It’s a wonderful school to be a part. 

“The boys are so proud of those suits. They take pride in their outfits, learning how to iron them and telling their parents they’re all laid out and ready for the morning,” Dodson says. 

The Sundale Gents club was born last year with 13 fourth- and fifth-grade boys who meet every Monday in Dodson’s classroom during lunch. The group not only helps boys take pride and ownership in all they do, it’s solidifying relationships. 

“Having guys around is just important. I wanted to give them a safe spot and be able to learn things that may get overlooked. The bond these boys are creating is incredible. How much they open up to each other is truly amazing, for them and myself,” Dodson says.

Each week, the group discusses different lessons and the kids often bring up the topics. “A couple weeks ago, one of the kids asked about table manners. This led to a two-week lesson on proper table etiquette and the kids were filled with questions.” 

He says it’s all about making little steps: Simple life lessons, like teaching them how to respect themselves and others, proper etiquette, discussing handshakes and how to introduce themselves. 

The kids leave with a task each week and the boys have taken full responsibility. Some weeks it’s greeting two adults and students or giving genuine and sincere compliments to their peers and teachers.

Dodson has received multiple positive messages from teachers and administration, noticing how respectful and intentional the boys are with their tasks. His long-term hope for the group, as the kids graduate out of the program, is that they’ll come back and help mentor the younger kids, bringing it full circle.  

Training and participating in America Ninja Warrior has given Dodson a unique perspective and angle with the kids. “The more experiences you can expose kids to, opens their minds to see what’s possible for them. Even if what they want to do is different, it allows them to see they can achieve their dreams by working hard and never giving up.”

His goal in helping the next generation of gentlemen is to inspire them to never let failure get them down; never let one small thing keep them from accomplishing their goal. “Life is about doing better than what you did before,” one small step at a time. •

Rachel Trigueiro,  twin mom of four, loves adventuring with her family, especially near the beach. She holds a degree in business, but believes living in other countries and cultures offered her the greatest education. She dreamed of being a talk-show host; now, she enjoys story telling and drinking blonde coffee.