CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — A program that helps young men reach their full potential is earning accolades from southeast Missouri leaders and members of the Missouri Legislature’s Black Caucus.
The Southeast Missourian reports that the Honorable Young Men Club provides mentoring for students in the Cape Girardeau School District, but its organizers hope to expand elsewhere.
The program was begun in 2016 by four former Southeast Missouri State University football players, including one now with the Baltimore Ravens, Aaron Adeoye. The others — Wyky Jean, Kweku Arkorful and Cantrell Andrews — recently hosted a gathering to show the benefits of the program. The event was organized by former Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
Co-founders of the nonprofit offer data showing that students who participate in the program have better grades, higher attendance and fewer suspensions than their peers.
“Before I got into the program, I was fighting and being disrespectful and now I’m not doing that,” club member Glen Nesby said.
Another, Demarius Mathies, cited the self-control he has learned, saying the program teaches “a different mindset of how you react to things.”
Cape Girardeau Schools Superintendent Neil Glass urged lawmakers to find ways to replicate the program elsewhere.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Glass said. “They have totally transformed so many students’ lives that I know of in particular.”
The program began as a volunteer effort. Organizers initially provided 45 minutes of mentoring, one day a week, for each participant. The success was so quick that the program became wildly popular, rising from 35 participants in the first year to 185 the second.
In fact, the founders said, the growth was perhaps too fast. Results dipped in that second year. The founders realized they needed to get back to the one-on-one relationships that made the HYMC successful.
Today, the program caps the number of participants. There is a waiting list.
Black Caucus lawmakers who attended the gathering hosted by Kinder saw potential.
State Rep. Wiley Price, D-St. Louis, lauded the program’s one-on-one method of mentoring. State Rep. Kevin Windham, a St. Louis County Democrat and a former classmate of the founders at SEMO, was impressed by the way the participants carried themselves.
That’s no accident, Jean said.
“Soft skills,” Jean said. “We work on those a lot, and they’re doing great. Proud of them.”