Denver gents of PBLA

Denver Gents Isaac Stroope and Martel Dyles each had someone.

So did fellow Denver Gents Tony Howard, James Beverly, Stuart Crowell and Delroy Gill.

For some of the attendees at the annual Porter-Billups Leadership Academy (PBLA) on the Regis University campus, learning how to be a gentleman was new. They hadn’t been sat down and talked to about hygiene and hairstyles, or how to iron clothes and tie a necktie.

An adult hadn’t shown them how to respectfully approach a woman or how to understand and accept rejection.

“All the gentlemen here, someone taught us this stuff,” said Stroope, who serves as the CEO for the Denver Gents, a men’s social club that puts a premium on dressing well and serving youth in the community. “We are a diverse group. We have black guys, white guys and Hispanic guys from all different backgrounds. No matter what, someone showed us this. When you’re looking good and you’re vibing, you want to give that back to somebody else. For us that’s this — the Junior Gents.”

For the first year, the Denver Gents taught a weekly session for PBLA’s male campers about what it means to be a gentleman. They also held real conversations, where nothing was off limits. The girls at the camp had a similar experience where they talked about many of the same issues.

“You’re a male by birth, a man by age, but a gentleman by choice,” Beverly told a group of rising freshmen. “You have to make that choice.”

The Denver Gents also talked to the students on how to use social media, how to create a personal brand and why being respectful online is as important as being respectful in person.

“They showed you how to be a gentleman,” freshman Aron Walker said. “They showed us how you should present yourself. To be a gentleman, you treat everyone with respect, man or woman.”

PBLA is a nonprofit that supports disadvantaged Denver youth who have leadership potential. Through a three-week summer program, and year-round support, students entering grades 4 through 12 come to the Northwest Denver Campus to learn about topics ranging from social justice and astronomy to financial literacy. This summer 215 students attended PBLA. Graduates are eligible for scholarships that cover up to full tuition at Regis. To date, 31 PBLA graduates have earned degrees from Regis.

Crowell and Gill formed the Denver Gents last year. The two liked dressing up and looking good. They decided to hold an event; 20 people said they’d attend.

More than 100 people showed up.

“That’s when we thought it might have legs,” Crowell said.

In 18 months, the group has grown to more than 150 members. They meet for events around town and pay dues, which are used to benefit local nonprofits, such as PBLA.

On the final day of the camp, each Junior Gent received a gift bag — a gentleman’s starter kit — that included deodorant, mouthwash, a loofah, a tie and a bow tie. Before each session ended, there was a tie-tying contest.

The winner received a slick pair of new dress socks. Judging from the reception — and how each Junior Gent stopped to thank each Denver Gent — the lessons definitely were learned.   

“When you’re young and in school, people might want to make fun of you for being a gentleman,” said Steve Perez, a sophomore at Arrupe Jesuit High School. “But being a gentleman doesn’t stop. It’s about being respectful and helping others.”