|Broad Run High School dean Kevin Tyson, center, stands with junior Prince Mensah, left, and senior Yasmeen Lasheen, right. Mensah is member of Tyson’s DMV club and Lasheen is part of DSW. Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser|
When Broad Run High School dean Kevin Tyson sits with his students, he seems completely comfortable. Just 29 years old, Tyson, a former Howard University student and football player, holds many hats at the Ashburn school: educator, administrator and coach. But Tyson hopes to demonstrate something else he finds equally important to the school of 1,800: How to be a leader.
“A lot of people like to get down on this generation, say what's wrong with them, what they're not capable of, but not too many people offer solutions,” Tyson explained.
In 2010, Tyson proposed his own solution: Dedicated Men with a Vision.
A club open to all boys at Broad Run High School, “DMV” is founded around brotherhood, scholarship and service.
Tyson opened the club to all students, regardless of GPA. He recollected the first interest meeting, when 77 kids attended, after he expected just 10 to 15.
“In the first meeting, I said 'raise your hand if you know how to tie a tie?'” Tyson recounted. “Literally, maybe 10 or 15 guys raised their hands. I thought they misunderstood the question. So I rephrased it, 'How many of you don't know how to tie a tie?'”
“Almost the entire room raised their hands.”
Tyson's new club focused not just on academics and community service, but also learning etiquette and life principles, like how to be a gentleman, how to handle relationships and how to plan.
By the end of the 2009-2010 school year, the girls wanted a club of their own.
“DMV was created first, and I always envied the club, how the girls never had it,” said Yasmeen Lasheen, a senior at Broad Run. “When DSW was created, I jumped right on that.”
DSW, the sister club to DMV, stands for Determined Strong Women. The focuses are the same, and often times, the clubs work together for service activities. On the first and third Thursday of every month, both groups can be spotted by their apparel; the boys wear slacks, ties and a DMV sweater vest while the girls wear skirts or slacks and a red DSW blouse.
Prince Mensah, a junior and one of five student leaders in DMV, joined for similar reasons.
“It showed me it's not about getting in trouble, it's about giving back to the community,” Mensah said.
Both Mensah and Lasheen quickly plunged into activities, and most club members accumulate 70 to 80 hours of community service a year.
Tyson points to himself as proof positive that everyone can be a leader and notes that he thinks it's important that students can look to him as not only a positive role model, but as a positive young, black role model.
“I think it is extremely important to see a successful young black male,” said Tyson, an Alabama native. “I always tell them, there is no time limit on success. But whether you like it or not, you're going to be a role model. Often times, in my case, whoever knows me or sees me is going to base the rest of the race of it, so I know it's important to be a positive role model.
“I don't want people to just see a black leader, I want them to see a leader that happens to be black. I want them to know I am not an anomaly.”
Mensah and Lasheen feel his goal is close to fruition, noting that they feel the Loudoun community is diverse and open-minded. Though they noted its important to remember struggles of times past, they both expressed gratitude about growing up in a diverse community.
“I feel like a leader is a leader,” Lasheen said. “Our school is very diverse, so I feel like being a leader in this community is something I really like. This community is amazing compared to so many others around the United States.”
For now, Lasheen and Mensah are both interested in expanding the program around the county and amidst universities.
“I have a friend at Briar Woods who is interested in bringing the program to his school,” Mensah said. “I want to see more people next year, and the following year and the following here.”
Both kids have lofty goals beyond the club and high school; they both want to go to college, and Lasheen has already been accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University to study biomedical engineering. Tyson has high hopes for both.
And, he notes, he's eager to talk to all former students. After all, he is one leader passing the torch to the next generation.
All photos by Rick Wasser