The Men in Training program at Taylor Elementary School in the White Hall District has won acclaim from throughout the district, and now it’s picked up sponsors to provide incentives.

Wes Booker, who is an insurance agent in White Hall, teamed up with Mountain View-based Stone Bank, which is opening a branch in White Hall in April, to buy t-shirts for the students, which they proudly wore Wednesday when Kelly Williams, a vice-president and marketing manager for Stone Bank, and Booker paid a visit.

“We had an NFL player (Chris Gragg) here, and the kids wanted to ask him how much money he made and things like that but he wanted to talk about things like staying in school and getting good grades,” said James Moore, one of two male teachers at the school who serve as mentors for the students.

The Arkansas State Police helicopter and its pilots have visited the school, as has the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Department, and Moore said the boys have also heard from paramedics about their job.

“We’re planning on somebody from juvenile justice and we hope to get the Lieutenant Governor here,” he said.

Williams said the bank supporting things like Men in Training fits perfectly into the bank’s plans to give back to the community.

“Sometimes when somebody has a grand opening they will give away something like a four-wheeler or something and there’s one winner but we’re doing 10 ways of giving and this is one of them,” he said.

The new $3 million bank facility located on Sheridan Road next to Huddle House plans a grand opening on May 4, Williams said.

The Men in Training program teaches the young men how to show respect and each Thursday, they wear dress shirts and ties for the various speakers. The school keeps a supply of ties on hand for students who forget theirs and Moore said the students have learned to tie their own ties.

“We had one student whose grandfather didn’t know how and his father didn’t know how,” Moore said. “He was the only one who know how to do it.”

A 1993 graduate of White Hall High School, Williams said he and Booker played football together at White Hall, and while teams he was on didn’t win a state championship, the junior high teams had a record of 25-1, and the senior high teams had a 92 percent winning rate.

“Sports are a great way to learn things like ambition and drive, but if you don’t make good grades and don’t do your homework, you’re not going to get to play,” he said.

He went around the room asking various students what they wanted to do when they grew up, with one saying he wanted to be a professional athlete, another a sanitation worker, a third a paleontologist, and another said he wanted to join the Marines.

“Every job is important, no matter what you do,” Williams said.