The following blog post was submitted by Megan Grant, director of program development at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke
The Holyoke Boys and Girls Club is piloting a new mentoring initiative, working with a population of young men not typically represented in mentoring programs: proven risk young men ages 16 to 24. To introduce this new program and recruit additional mentors, we will hold a series of events in Holyoke. Our first event was a 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament and Games Night held at the Boys & Girls Club on Friday June 7, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Despite the heavy rain and limited outreach, we had an overwhelming response, with more than 50 people attending.
Our participants are young men who meet the criteria for Holyoke’s Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI). For those unfamiliar with this initiative, SSYI is violence prevention program existing in eight cities across the state targeting young men who are at "proven risk" for committing or being victims of gun and knife crime.
Holyoke’s SSYI program provides wrap-around services for more than 75 young men. At our program, every participant has access to a comprehensive education program that includes GED/PreGED prep, ESL, reading instruction, and college preparation; transitional employment; mental health counseling; a life skills program that includes sexual health, financial literacy, and job skills workshops; and intensive street outreach. All of the young men in our program come voluntarily, and are there because they want to make a change in their lives. SSYI works with these young men to address any and all obstacles in their path - housing, education, employment, mental health issues, substance abuse, and gang involvement.
Many of our participants have told us they want more things to do to keep them off the streets. They also wish they had more males in their lives who can be a positive influence. The Sin Excusas (No Excuses) Mentoring Program is being developed to respond to this need. Our program is starting with a group of Latino and African-American men in Holyoke who have been brought together by the owner of a local barbershop. These men have been meeting as informal mentors with some SSYI participants over the course of the past year, and we are now in the process of formalizing the program in order to deepen its impact on our young men.
As part of the Sin Excusas program, the Boys and Girls Club will organize monthly events at various places in the community. These events have 2 purposes:
- To provide our young men with something to do that keeps them off the streets and allows them the chance to interact with positive men from their community
- To broaden our outreach and recruit additional men from Holyoke willing to be a positive presence in the lives of our young men
We require no commitment to attend one of these events. Our hope is to build a coalition of men from our community willing to come and interact in a positive way with our young men. We are recruiting both men willing to serve as one-on-one mentors, and those who cannot make that commitment but are interested to attend monthly events with our young men.
If you would like more information about the Sin Excusas program, or want to be informed of our monthly events, please contact Megan Grant at (413) 534-7366 or firstname.lastname@example.org.