By Tera Alston
Special to Inside The Pew

On a daily basis there are thousands of young men of color entering into the prison pipeline. In some cities across our country it

Terrence Alston

has even become an epidemic. Young men of color are being incarcerated in alarming numbers with some studies showing more young men of color being incarcerated every year than graduate from high school.

The million dollar question is: What can be done about this ever-growing epidemic?  There is no quick and easy solution. We are dealing with a complex issue that will require an all hands on deck solution if we truly want to make any type of positive and lasting impact.

Over the years there have been programs instituted to assist young men who appear to be heading down the wrong path. Training programs such as pro-social skills and violence prevention have been instituted in schools and community-based programs. However, it can’t stop there. Additional methods are needed to help rescue the growing number of boys and young men of color entering the prison system.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

A great place to look for these solutions is to research ideas that have proven to work and change lives. One of those solutions is mentoring. There are many studies which show young people who have mentors are more successful throughout their lifetime.

Although 1:1 mentoring is most commonly known, there are other forms of mentoring that can also be used. For example, group mentoring can be used to provide a safe environment for participants to discuss issues with their peers and their adult mentors.

There is one group in Chesapeake, Va., that utilizes this approach to help boys and young men turn away from the path to prison towards paths of purpose.

Boys to Men is a Christian-based ministry at Union Bethel Baptist Church. The ministry reaches out to boys and young men, encircling them literally and figuratively by older men in the church. The organizers also encourage fathers to participate in this circle of mentors. According to Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, there is a “…need for black boys to be surrounded by older, black role models.” Boys to Men has done just that by providing a circle of role models to mentor not only boys of color but any boy or young man in need of a positive role model.

The mission of Boys to Men is simple says Terrence Alston, one of the group’s leaders: “our mission is to mentor and mold young boys and young men…to encourage unity; teach respect for oneself and others, and most of all…to teach young boys and young men to be strong upstanding men in the eyes of God and in their communities”.

Alston is a proponent of mentoring and a supporter of reaching out to young men who are at risk and are on the threshold of the prison pipeline.

The ministry was started in early 2000 by the late Pastor Calvin White. Pastor White tasked the church deacons to become involved up close and personal in the lives of boys in the community. According to Alston, “he wanted us to be their role models instead of rappers and athletes; he tasked us to teach them how to be men.”

As a collective group, the boys and men discuss topics such as anger management, peer pressure, the dangers of drugs, bullying, success in the classroom, their future, dressing for success, and how to explore their feelings. Part of the group’s focus is also based on biblical principles, which is highlighted in their pledge which the boys recite at the beginning of each group. Part of the pledge reads, “I will live my life based on God’s word…Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You” Psalm 119:11 (NKJV).

The outcomes are proving that the group’s approach is working. This year, several participants graduated from high school and college and one entered the military. This helps to show that what we see and hear on TV is not true about all boys and men of color. They can succeed and are succeeding towards paths of purpose.

For more information about this ministry, contact Union Bethel Baptist Church at 757-488-3117 or email Terrence Alston atTera Alston mccann1983.ta@gmail.com.

Tera Alston is a women’s ministry leader and human resources professional in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia.  She also partners with her husband to assist at-risk youth and their families.  She has a BSBA from Old Dominion University and an MBA from Saint Leo University.

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3 Comments

  1. This is a great article and a truly moving piece. The youth in the world need mentors and leaders to guide them to success. This is also a way to keep the youth off of the streets.

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  2. Boys to Men is a wonderful concept because young men of color are sometimes misunderstood and overlooked.

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  3. Excellent article!! Keep up the good work Terrence and Tera, Papa is smiling down on you two. Great is your reward in heaven! Don’t give up on this much needed service to mankind. Love, Mom

    Reply

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