Men of Elmont is gearing up for its seventh annual summit on June 1 to wrap up the year — and the program’s mentors said it’s going to be a special one as they bid a fond farewell to its founder, Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty.
When Dougherty created the mentoring program in 2016, the founders decided they would hold a summit to close out the academic year, according to Jon Johnson, an adviser for Men of Elmont.
Each year, the program has a different theme, and the 2023 summit will be centered on Dougherty and brotherhood, with the theme “MOE4Life,” Johnson said. The beloved Men of Elmont founder and principal — affectionately known as “Doc” — announced last month that he is leaving the school district after eight years.
“It’s important, when you lose someone with such prominence, you really have to say thank you,” Johnson said. “It is the right thing to do because without him, we wouldn’t have had this program.”
Dougherty brought the program to the high school with the initial idea to help boys who were getting into trouble at school. His goal was to give the students a space to have real discussions about topics they were interested in and get them on the right track.
Men of Elmont advisers teach core leadership values through weekly mentorship meetings and the mentees participate in regular community service initiatives. Group members also host guest speakers, attend different field trips and visit colleges and museums.
Since Dougherty had to juggle many tasks as principal, he needed more adult mentors to be included in the program. Ray Ramos, an on-staff security guard and retired NYPD officer and detective, saw the positive impact the program had on students and volunteered to be a mentor.
Ramos said he is looking forward to bringing back former alumni to speak at this year’s summit and celebrating the young men who have taken Men of Elmont’s teachings and utilized them to do some good in the world.
“No matter where you are in life, being a part of this program is not just a temporary thing — it’s a lifelong thing, and something that stays within you,” Ramos said. “This is something that will stay with them and something that will help them pay it forward to the next generation.”
Through the years, the group has added more mentors, including Pastor Curtis Thompson, who said the summit is exciting because it culminates a year’s worth of efforts and celebrates the boys by allowing them to be on display for not only their parents, but the entire community.
Although this year’s summit is “bittersweet” because it’s Dougherty’s final year, Thompson said the group will celebrate nonetheless.
“Words are not adequate enough to describe how much he has meant to so many people,” Thompson said. “To make this about him is a small demonstration of our appreciation.”
Johnson said in addition to alumni returning to speak about what they have gained from the Men of Elmont program, the celebration will focus on the mentees’ shared experiences with Dougherty, brotherhood and working on the young men’s overall development.
“Doc is a very humble man and he wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just centered around him,” Johnson said. “Part of the theme is about him because we must salute the founder.”