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Insider Profiles

Influencing the Boston Scene by Night, Being a Positive Influence on Others by Day

Kupah James"You'd be surprised how many of these young men are looking for male guidance in their life."


It's cool to be kind, and hip to be respectful — to yourself and to others.

That's the message Kupah James tries to embody, and one that he's passed along to the thousands of high school boys he has mentored over the years in Boston.

In fact, James may be a perfect role model for teens, a group absorbed in image. Handsome, fashionable and charismatic, James is undeniably part of the young in-crowd in Boston. A professional hip-hop dancer, he's performed at the concerts of Snoop Dogg and Elton John, and during halftime at Boston Celtics and New England Patriots games.

James also DJs at corporate events, private parties and celebrations of all kinds. After work, he's out two to four nights a week, on average, providing live entertainment through Klass Universal Entertainment, which he founded and runs. He also works as a professional fitness instructor. It's hard to imagine how James could be any more in tune with the scene to which teenagers aspire.

Who better, then, to talk to teenage boys about how important it is to follow through on a commitment, to demonstrate how they can talk openly about their problems, to show them that it's masculine to speak kindly about, and to, their girlfriends?

"You'd be surprised how many of these young men are looking for male guidance in their life," James says.

James, 28, began the work as an intern at the Norfolk County district attorney's office after graduating from Curry College with a degree in psychology and criminal justice. His job at the time was to reach out to middle school students, but he found that he connected better with high-school-age kids, so he retooled his position.

James holds weekly sessions at schools throughout the Boston area. He primarily concentrates on those students who don't typically get attention — the B and C students who work hard and somehow manage to avoid stumbling on the string of problems lining their path.

"It's the kid who comes to school every day, but no one ever notices him," James says. "I think these guys need to be patted on the back for coming to school and getting that B and staying out of trouble."

For the discussion groups, James lays some ground rules: "They can't talk about women in a degrading fashion; they can't use racial language; they will not disrespect others in my presence."

In return, he promises the students he'll follow three rules for himself:

1. He will always be positive. He will not take out his bad mood on them.

2. He will always be consistent. He promises to be there every week, unless there's an emergency. "They can look forward to me coming, and not be let down," says James.

3. He promises that he will be a man. "I explain that I like football, I like beer, I like women, but I am not the traditional egotistical man. I tell male friends I love them. I tell my girlfriend in public that I miss her."

It's not how he makes the big money — James is pinning that dream on the entertainment business. "But it's definitely the most warm and touching thing I do in my life," he says.

Check out Kupah's Boston.