April 12, 2009

Smart Moves Night - Heros

My friend, personal hero, and star man-maker, Mustafa Mahdi, is the Founder/Director of The Rising Son, Inc., Young Men's Development Center in Jonesboro, Georgia. He and his band of dedicated mentors are constantly coming up with ways to entertain, guide, and inspire the young males in their care. Here is his description of one of their programs called Smart Moves Night.

I wanted to update you on activities at The Rising Son. Our "Smart Moves" Friday Night Chess and Mentoring Program has been a great success. Each Friday from 7-10pm for the past three weeks we have had between 10 and 20 boys show up at our center to learn to play chess. As the name suggests, "Smart Moves" is about making good choices in life. Each Friday night the Mentors spend the first hour discussing how the boys are doing in school and at home. Most of our members don't have a father in the home, so the Mentor assumes many of the responsibilities of the absent father...encouraging the boy to respect his mother, to do his best at school and to complete his chores at home.

Each boy also completes a Grade Level Based Assessment to determine where he is academically and if tutoring is needed. We also have group discussions on a variety of topics including Career Planning, Goal Setting, Conflict Resolution, Manhood, Fatherhood, Domestic Violence Prevention, Pollution/Conservation, Global Warming, etc.

The second hour is dedicated to teaching each boy to play Chess. We knew that many of our boys were spending hours playing video games that overstimulate aggressive behavior, promote competitiveness and shorten attention spans. We chose chess because it teaches analytical skills, strategy, patience, and gives our boys the ability to focus for extended periods of time . . . skills that are readily transferable to the classroom and life. We have both beginners and intermediate players. Our goal is to eventually establish a traveling Chess Team to compete with other organizations. The boys play chess with both peers and Mentors.

The intangible benefit for me has been observing the boys as they teach each other to play the game, watching them display sportsmanship, and the wonderful interaction between men and boys.

The Rising Son is a great model for men in communities everywhere. I hope you find their work as inspirational as I do. Check out The Rising Son website for more information and their whole story.

AND BY THE WAY . . . Mustafa is operating on a shoestring budget. He informed me that, . . . our old 1985 Ford Van's transmission has finally broken down. I'll be leaving shortly to try to find a mechanic who will tell us if it can be repaired. Our challenge as always is the money to pay for repairs. Summer Day Camp begins in less than 8-weeks and we desperately need our van to pick-up our After-School Program members for the remainder of the school year . . .

If you are looking to donate to a good cause, a little cash, or even a donated van would be put to VERY good use by this group. You can see their Wish List at this link, or contact Mustafa at mfmahdi@yahoo.com, or at (678) 933-9677.

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