A grassroots program to support middle school boys in the Syracuse City School District is about to move into it’s next phase thanks to an initiative created by President Obama a few years ago.
The ‘Building Men’ program is getting a three year ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ grant.
The grant is worth $150,000 each of the next three years.
It was a decade ago at Levy Middle School when Joe Horan inherited an intramural basketball program tied to academics.
Growing up a city kid himself, Horan knew the kids needed more. He added some character pieces and a little community service, developed a rite of passage and ‘Building Men’ was born.
“I think these kids have the same questions that all men have which is how do you do this, how do you grow up, how do you become a real man and we base everything on relationships.” Horan tells NewsChannel 9.
The program is now in seven of the district’s 11 middle schools with two more about to come on line next school year.
Horan says, “They want to be part of something bigger than themselves and that’s kind of what we’re trying to teach them.”
Field trips and retreats are part of the program, allowing these boys to experience things they may not have had the opportunity to be involved with otherwise.
“We had an 8th grader tell me he’s never been sledding in Syracuse. Blew my mind. We’ve been able to take kids to college visits.” Horan says.
A significant portion of the new grant will be used to contract with longtime Syracuse City Schools partner ‘Peaceful schools’.
Horan explains, “It’s going to allow us to bring the community and families to become more involved and that’s the whole purpose what can we do to support the parents of the boys that we’re serving.”
He says of the kids who complete 80 percent of the program, over 75 percent of them graduate high school, which is nearly twenty points higher than the district average and on par with the Statewide graduation average.