Boys to Men: mentor program for San Diego youth

Posted: Aug 19, 2014 7:57 PM PDTUpdated: Aug 19, 2014 7:58 PM PDT

In his comments about the shooting in Ferguson this week, President Obama said “too many young men of color are left behind and seen as objects of fear.” The president is pushing for more programs to change that perception and reality.

18-year-old Jordan Jackson joined San Diego’s Boys To Men organization at the age of 13 – the age of discovery, questionable decisions and transitions. Raised by a single mother, Jordan relied on his mentors to guide him and keep him in school.

“A lot of them are father figures that we don’t have in our lives. We can share anything with them, trust really is the number one thing.”

Craig McClain started Boys to Men in San Diego 18 years ago, which offers young men a community where they can share their stories, their struggles and know they are not alone. The program teaches them to be respectable men. It meets in schools with kids who are getting into trouble – many are African American and Latino.

“I’d probably be in Juvenile Hall,” stated one young man in the program Lewis.

“They join gangs, do drugs, drop out of school. They steal, get bad grades because they don’t have anybody that cares about them or show them how to do it the right way,” stated McClain.

It’s organizations like Boys To Men that President Obama wants to focus on in light of the racial police-community turmoil happening in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown – organizations that highlight the importance of guidance and education.

“About two thirds of black men who enroll in college will drop out without earning a degree,” said Dr. Frank Harris, associate professor of San Diego State University.

Dr. Harris does research on improving access and completion of college for men of color. He says men need to strive for a career instead of just employment.

“Helping people from different communities – particularly under-resourced or impoverished communities – to see college as a viable option, as a way out, as a way to a better life.”

As for Jordan Jackson? He’s about to start his freshman year at San Diego State on a full academic scholarship.

“They helped me hold my positive attitude up. I’m more optimistic, looking forward to my college experience.”