Middle School can be a tumultuous, in-between time as boys, no longer small children and not yet teenagers, seek to find their place and have an impact.
The McCallie Middle Men organization gives Middle School boys an opportunity to discover a sense of purpose, service, and community while developing practical skills of problem-solving, leadership, and collaboration. “Becoming a McCallie Middle Man,” says Jake Copeland ’25, “was one of the best decisions I have made.” Classmate Jack Niehaus ’25 agrees, “I love being part of McCallie Middle Men. I know I need help sometimes and we give people help. People help me all the time and it is nice to share that with someone else.” Through their service, the boys involved as McCallie Middle Men gain invaluable experience and insights like these shared by Calder Gant ’26, “Being a Middle Man allows me to connect with my community, grow as a person, and learn new skills. The leadership skills that I learn by being involved help me be more confident and help me be a leader in my school and in my community.”
McCallie Middle Men is a service organization for 7th- and 8th-grade students. Students apply in the spring before their 7th- or 8th-grade year. The Middle School leadership team, with the input of teacher recommendations, selects about 15 boys each year to be Middle Men. Middle School counselor, Cindy McCroskey, sponsors and advises the group, helping them discover, select, and organize both school and community service projects.
“By engaging in actively serving others,” Mrs. McCroskey explains, “seeking to make a difference where they can, these boys learn teamwork, leadership skills, and a lifelong habit of seeking to help others. They gain new insights about themselves and the world beyond the boundaries of campus.” Boys get to know each other through working together, they get to know Chattanooga, and they have fun. “The Middle Men help me be around people and places in our community that I probably would not be around otherwise such as the homeless population,” says Jack Bowen ’25. Henry Webb ’26 reflects, “I enjoy being a Middle Man because I have gotten to know my fellow Middle Men, guys I didn’t really know well before. I have learned how important it is to help others.”
Service doesn’t have to be big and grandiose to be meaningful and make a difference. In the summer before the start of school, Middle Men offer one-on-one student orientation tours and conversations with new 6th graders and their parents. Having familiar faces and acquaintances with older boys in the Middle School is a great help to incoming 6th graders who are unfamiliar with McCallie. It is nice for them to have Middle Men as a resource in their early days at McCallie.
“Being a Middle Man allows me to connect with my community, grow as a person, and learn new skills. The leadership skills that I learn by being involved help me be more confident and help me be a leader in my school and in my community.” Calder Gant ’26
Other projects throughout the school year include collecting hygiene items, hats, and gloves to create care kits. This year Middle Men produced over 75 care kits and gave them to the Salvation Army. Also with the Salvation Army, Middle Men dress up in festive costumes during the holidays and become joyful bell-ringers at a local shopping center. In addition to inspiring people to donate money, they are also known to assist elderly shoppers in navigating traffic in the parking lots, loading groceries into their cars, and returning their carts for them. The Middle Men coordinate both Thanksgiving and Easter food drives, collecting barrels of canned goods that are matched with holiday turkeys and ham donated by boys in the Upper School. Last year, Middle Men had great fun making and selling cookies for Valentines. With the pandemic still in force, baking will not be a part of their projects in 2021. Acting on the need to keep one’s hands washed and sanitized during the pandemic, Middle Men have written a proposal to the Mayor’s office for permission to mount about 20 hand sanitizer dispensers in various locations around town. Having accessible hand sanitizer will be a great benefit to local pedestrians, tourists, and the homeless population. They hope to get the go-ahead for their proposal soon.
Boys develop a sense of pride in their work and service beyond what they expected before they joined. “Coming to McCallie, I wanted to do everything that I could, and that is why I became a Middle Man,” says Ryan Ellis ’26. “At first, I thought that this would just be to say that I had done it, but now that I have, it is much more. The satisfaction that I get to help people has grown a lot, as well as the overall wellness of my personality. Now I find myself trying to help whenever I can, and trying harder. I know that I am helping to better McCallie and Chattanooga. This is an amazing feeling. Every meeting, every project, I know I can make someone’s day, or even change their life.”
The Middle Men meet every other week at 8:00 am to discuss the progress of their projects. They may also be tapped to help with tasks around the Middle School building like putting up and taking down signs. The group is hoping to go forward to sponsor a kennel and supplies as well as volunteer as dog companions and walkers for the Humane Educational Society in the spring but pandemic conditions will be the deciding factor. Also thinking about the pandemic, the Middle Men are focusing close at hand, thinking about their teachers who heroically have pivoted and served students in this most unusual and stressful environment. To give to them, Middle Men are planning to launch a snack cart as a way of giving back to their hard-working teachers. Anthony Xian ’26 is super enthusiastic about his involvement, “Middle Men has really changed my McCallie experience. I wake up every other Tuesday excited to go to the meeting, to help people in our community, and to talk about ways to make our school better. Getting to help people in our school and community by organizing drives and service projects is phenomenal.”
Serving others prepares a boy to lead others. Middle Men are learning the practicalities of managing service projects as well as the importance of leading by example. Developing a sense of capability and willingness to serve comes from McCallie’s commitment to the development of boys holistically – mind, body, and spirit. At McCallie, developing knowledge involves training the head and the heart. The willingness to help others is an expression of the school’s ideals of Honor, Truth, and Duty. Cullen Mazo ’25 says, “I became aMiddle Man to be a part of something bigger than myself and help my community.” Hudson Hazlewood ’25 is also aware of these higher ideals, “I wanted to give back to the school that has given so much to me and to help out the community.” The spirit of service is in the community and considered a valuable strength. Drew Holland ’25 sums it up concisely: “It is an honor to represent this brotherhood through being a Middle Man.”