Heroes Academy has a new executive director, with Mario Caleb Barnes stepping into the leadership role. He replaces Kyle Ellison, who has moved into the role of founding school director at Khan Lab School, the first partner at Wichita’s new Learning Lab.

Barnes may be a new face at Heroes Academy, but he is a familiar one in the USD #259 school district, where he has a long history of more than 16 years in behavioral mentoring and providing support to principals and counselors.

“I just basically supplied whatever the kids needed– discipline, connection with parents, or maybe just that connection with a caring adult that they yearned for.” Barnes said, adding that in his last years at USD 259 he worked with Dr. William Polite as a Future Ready advocate and mentor.

His role at Heroes Academy, which was founded as Real Men, Real Heroes, will be leading a team of mentors and developing activities and programs that serve kids.

Since its founding in 2008, Real Men, Real Heroes has served more than 5,000 kids.

“We wanted to do more and broaden the mission to include girls as well as boys,” he says. “That led to the name change.”

Heroes Academy exposes kids in grades 3 through 8 to new experiences and helps them understand that their lives have no limits.

Mentors and students meet for dinner and an activity every Monday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Activities in the past have included touring a fire station, taking in an art exhibit, listening to live music, horseback riding, fishing and baking. 

During the week, mentors meet with groups of students in six schools in Wichita: Brooks, Gordon Parks, Pleasant Valley, Mayberry, Truesdell and Robinson.

Barnes reported to his new job in mid-August.

He and his wife, Keisha, have two children, a daughter, Isabella, 6 and a son, Caleb Jessie who is 2.