Boys to Men: Making the future bright

By: Adrienne Wallace | Email: Click Here
Posted: February 7, 2020 | 12:30 p.m.

PRINCE GEORGE  – It was an emotional moment for a Prince George student as he explained the challenges he faced at home and in school.

Keona Corrigan woke up one morning when he was seven to discover his father was not home.

“He read me a story the night before and when I woke up, he was gone,” Keona recalled.

His dad had been incarcerated that night, and left was his sister, mom, and brother. A year later his only brother left for North Dakota to live with his dad.

The N.B. Clements student began going through tough times fighting with his sister daily, and changing from a lovely young child to an angry kid who just couldn’t communicate his feelings.

His grades began dropping and he even struck another student who, “was annoying me because he wouldn’t work on the project that was our project,” with a pencil and drawing blood.

A tearful “Ke” [pronounced Key as he is called by family and friends] said he was suspended for a day for what could have been a 3-day infraction. But then he found Boys to Men and everything has been turning around for him.

“I think the season before I joined Boys to Men my highest grade was a low A,” he said with the only couple of Bs. “For English, I was doing really bad. I don’t exactly know what my grades were, but they weren’t good.”

The grading cycle the following year after joining the non-profit organization, Ke made the A, B honor roll.

His message of hope brought cheers from the crowd gathered at the 41st twice-annual John Randolph Foundation grant awards ceremony Wednesday morning.

Boys to Men Mentoring Network mentor Bill Carrol stands with Ke Corrigan as he speaks to attendees at John Randolph Foundation’s grant award ceremony, sharing his story of how the program has helped him in his life. (Adrienne Wallace)

The Boys to Men led by director and mentor Steven Martin, who founded the local Richmond chapter, accepted a $15,000 donation from JRF and was one of the spotlight organizations at the foundation’s ceremony in Hopewell.

Those funds are to train male mentors for middle school and high school-aged boys in Prince George County to reduce drop-out rates, drug abuse, truancy, and other negative behaviors.

Boys to Men Mentoring Network of Virginia offers young men a safe place where they can talk about what is really going on in their lives, as well as a community of mentors and peers who listen, believe in them and help them make better choices, Martin explained.

He shared stories of teenagers being unhappy, not being able to communicate what is going on with them to their parents and how mentoring helps turn their lives around in many cases. Many were doing drugs, failing classes and in some cases not attending school on a regular basis.

Not one student who has joined the group is in jail, and that is something Martin is proud to report.

The Boys to Men’s mission is to support boys during their critical teenage years as they transition from a boy into a man. “We do this by providing communities of caring mentors and role models who listen, accept, encourage and support teenage boys on their journey to become good men.”

“The goal is to give young men a variety of positive male role models who show up consistently and tell the truth about their struggles as men,” the director noted. “We focus on young men aged 12-17 with an emphasis on middle school boys, as this is traditionally a time when boys are still impressionable and open to new ideas.”

Mentors help young men figure out what kind of an adult man he wants to be, praise him for his gifts, support him when he makes mistakes, and encourage him to make good choices on his path to manhood. The desire is for this to be learned from a positive role model versus someone on the street corner like a gang member or peer.

“Young men in the program typically come from a single parent-figure household, a mother, grandmother or aunt. They are referred to the program by parents, mental health professionals, teachers and counselors, the court system, social workers, peers and word of mouth,” he added.

 

Ke Corrigan and Steven Martin, director and mentor with the Boys to Men Mentoring Network embrace during January’s John Randolph Foundation grant award ceremony. (Adrienne Wallace)

There are currently 20 active circles in the greater Richmond area serving approximately 195 boys per week.

Our active circles are available at 16 current locations in the Richmond Metropolitan area including N.B. Clements Junior High School.

It expanded into the county after Dixie O’Hare, whose three daughters attended Prince George schools, reached out to Martin. Since it wasn’t available in the county, she drove local participants to Tomahawk Creek Middle School (Midlothian) once a week from Prince George.

Seeing the need helped provide the program here and for boys like Ke, who said it’s changed his life for the better already.

He also thanked JRF for supporting the program as well as funding for him to attend an NRA summer camp.

With his experience through Boys to Men, Ke has not only improved his grades and become happier, but he’s also set goals for himself. He wants to open an auto repair shop by 2028 or 2029 and become a Prince George Police officer. He currently is in the Explorers program now getting youth experience through the department.

“I’ve learned to express my emotions in a healthy way, and feel I will only continue to improve,” he added. “I can see the future is bright now.”

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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