Saturday at the Atlanta Academy with UNL Alum, Malia Murray, and UGA Football Star, Malcolm Mitchell

You might recognize University of Georgia football star, Malcolm Mitchell, from his recent news segment on CBS, which highlighted how he discovered his passion for reading after joining a local women’s book club and making some very unlikely friendships. Since the segment aired, Malcolm, who is a close college friend of Usher’s New Look Atlanta Alum, Malia Murray, has started his own book club with our Usher’s New Look Atlanta high school Leadership Academy students!

For the past few months, students have been tasked with completing the classic novel, The Outsiders. Saturday, as part of the bi-monthly Academy session held at Emory Goizueta Business School, students gathered for their first UNL Book Club meeting. Malcolm led the discussion by helping youth draw parallels within the story to what goes on in their everyday lives and in the media. Students discussed themes within the book including peer pressure, violence, dealing with emotions, and setting short-term and long-term goals.

The conversation became very deep when students compared the mentality of The Greasers, a group of boys in the story, to supporters of the violent protests in Baltimore and at Valdosta State University. They reasoned that in both situations, some individuals take sides without any real rationale behind their actions. This, they said, is because emotions are in control. “Sometimes you’ve just got to remove yourself from the situation,” Program Coordinator and Alum, James Harris, said. “When you get wrapped up in emotions, sometimes the best thing is to remove yourself from the situation.”

The students deliberated how to not get sucked into peer pressure and negativity. Usher’s New Look Atlanta 9th Grader, Melvin Taylor, told the group about a family member he has always looked up to. He said, “Sometimes people are meant to be our role models, not in the way that we should look up to them for a good example, but actually look to them for what not to do.” He said this family member has always been his example of what he should seek to not become. Many in the group agreed they have experienced this type of reverse-mentorship as well.

Complementing the theme of the session, UNL Atlanta Alum, Malia, showed the group a music video she produced for new artist, Raury’s song Fly. The video uses animation to show black history and recent oppression including police brutality. Check it out here.

Thank you Malia and Malcolm for leading an incredible session with our youth! We love seeing the power of peer to peer teaching. Young people giving back to other young people is what we’re all about!