The right mix of knowledge, passion and good vibes can turn most things into a positive. For a group of young men, that combination has been a critical piece for growing boys into men.
For more than 25 years, the mentoring program Boys to Men has served the Mecklenburg County area by developing and delivering mentoring resources to boys and young men.
“I wanted to create a mentor group that would make young men more productive. There are many mentor groups that have sports like basketball and football,” said Christopher Timothy Fowler, president of Boys to Men. “Playing a sport is not the only answer for some. We provide mentoring, tutoring and conflict management along with home and school visits.”
The Boys to Men Foundation has aided more than 1,200 young men, with hundreds of volunteer mentors lending a helping hand.
As a part of the program, young men and boys age 9-17 receive mentoring and tutoring, as well as home and school visits by qualified mentors. To participate in the program, parents and students must participate in community service activities and parents must attend monthly parent workshops provided by the foundation.
The signature motto of the Boys to Men Foundation is “a step in the right direction.”
“Boys to Men Foundation believes that education is a key element to becoming a man, and just as importantly, a productive citizen,” Fowler said. “We guarantee young people that there is someone who cares about them and assure them they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges.”
One of the foundation signature curricula is a workforce development program with Hendrick Automotive. For the past four years, Boys to Men has partnered with the automotive group.
The mentees can work alongside Hendrick employees in various areas. For 10-15 hours a week during the summer, mentees become skilled workers in various areas of automotive repair and service.
“The young kings of Boys to Men feel a sense of pride and accomplishment after a day through the apprenticeship program,” Fowler said.
Some 95% of the Boys to Men scholars are raised by women. Fowler says some of the scholars have anger, resentment and abandonment issues, but sees every day the change the program makes and how the young men overcome a variety of challenges to achieve their goals.
Fowler says that while the concept of mentoring is simple, successful implementation can be challenging.
“Effective mentoring includes the ability and willingness to develop mutual trust and respect, help the mentee solve his or her own problem, rather than give direction and value the mentee as a person,” he said.
Mentoring is linked to improved academic, social and economic prospects for youth. Volunteer mentors not only positively impact someone's life, they are ultimately helping to strengthen their local community and workforce.
Boys to Men has many groups in their organization that help young people, such as the Young Men Society, which works with at-risk kids on all grade levels. Conversation with a Young Brother engages youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Turn Around works with students who are persistently suspended and Entrepreneurs provides students with financial and business knowledge.
These groups have helped many of the young men score better grades, complete community service hours, and contributed to a higher rate of completion for the programs that Boys to Men provides.
“I want to prepare the young men I work with for the future,” Fowler said.
Its’ clear that there is a passion to serve by the mentors of Boys to Men. Whether it is taking them to a Carolina Panthers game or a conversation about real life issues, this program is working hard to ensure this generation excels at every level.
A valuable resource in Charlotte for the mentoring community is the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte’s mentoring community.
The Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance is seeking nominations for deserving individuals or organizations that have made a difference in the lives of Charlotte children and youth through a commitment to mentoring.
To learn about mentoring or meet others who are interested in mentoring, you can attend a Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance Mentor Mingle and connect with individuals and organization who can provide mentor and mentee opportunities.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.