Sitting in a half circle on the gym floor, a group of middle-grade boys energetically debated President Obama’s State of the Union speech, the nation’s ranking in math and science, and which countries are producing things that other countries need.
In between the passionate conversation, adult male mentors guided the discussion, and prodded the boys to think hard about how each of those topics seemed global, but were pertinent to the boys’ own lives, and about how they – even in their own communities – could help make our society better.
The Young Men’s Mentoring Group at Collington Square School is just one program Elev8 has implemented to try to reach boys.
“We had a lot of programs for young ladies,” says Ron Triplett, Site Manager at Collington Square. “We did not have anything that catered to our young men except sports. This is an investment in our young men, addressing their social and emotional needs in a systematic way.”
Mentors from Building Communities Today for Tomorrow meet with the dozen or so boys enrolled in the program twice a week after school. Some of the school’s male learning coaches participate as well.
The young men relish the opportunity to hear from men such as Pastor Heber Brown III of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church and NBA sports agent Frank Johnson, who encourage, instruct, and motivate those in the group to work harder, show initiative, be respectful and industrious and become leaders in the community.
Because of his experience in the Young Men’s Mentoring Group, sixth-grader Nicholas McCoy, 12, says “I want to try to study harder and do better in math and science.”
And seventh-grader Jeffrey Stewart, 12, says he appreciates the group’s candid discussions about how so many young men in their communities end up involved with drugs and crime. “I don’t want to be one of those people, so I’m trying to learn some more,” he says.
That’s exactly the point of the group, says Johnson.
“These young men need to see what a real positive black man looks like,” he says, “to inspire them to believe that opportunities are limitless.”