August 9, 2012

A Couple of BAM's for Boys

As a follow-up to the recent Man-Making Blog post, Men in Schools - for Boys, and in support of this very form of Man-Making, I want to share an interesting article from the Chicago Tribune. It describes research conducted by the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab on 800 disadvantaged boys, from seventh through tenth grade, in one Chicago school district.

The boys were enrolled in BAM, or Becoming A Man—Sports Edition programs during the 2009-2010 school year. While that program is alive and well today, during the research period, BAM offered boys one-hour, small-group sessions, once a week, where they could develop social skills associated with self-control, goal setting, and emotional development. The core values taught in BAM include:
  • Integrity
  • Accountability
  • Self‐determination
  • Positive Anger Expression
  • Visionary Goal‐setting
In BAM Sports, they also wisely use after-school sports activities to help reinforce the program values. This time also creates the opportunity to teach boys important lessons on conflict resolution, with the coaches playing the role of instructor and facilitator.

Just some of the results from the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab research indicated the participants, " . . . experienced a 44 percent drop in arrests for violent crime and an up to 23 percent increase in graduation rates."

These numbers are especially meaningful because the Tribune states in this same school district, ". . . 319 students were killed or injured by gun violence during the last school year, the highest in four years, and a nearly 22 percent increase from the previous school year." I've often quoted the old African proverb that states, "If the young men are not initiated into the life of the village, they will burn it down just to feel the heat." That is clearly what was going on in this school district. The good news is BAM Sports is one very gender literate and school-based approach to reaching out to otherwise lost boys.

High Quality and Pro-active
Community Violence Prevention

BAM Sports and all the programs engaging at-risk boys represent high quality and proactive community violence prevention. If outcomes like those in this research continue to be replicated, not only will there be tremendous social gains measured in boys' lives saved, crime reduction, and increased quality of life in their communities, there will also be huge savings in taxpayer dollars. In a related press release, the Crime Lab Director, Jens Ludwig, said, "depending on how we measure the costs of crime," they expect returns on investment of somewhere between 3:1 to 31:1. In just dollars, the BAM Sports program costs $1,100 per participant compared to $3,600 - $34,000 for dealing with lost boys.

For a more detailed description of this program and it's outcomes read this description in the University of Chicago online news.

But one more quick BAM . . . for boys.

This next BAM (and, yes, there are lots of programs by that name) stands for Boys Advocacy and Mentoring. It was started by three Portland, Oregon area men who are counseling professionals. It has been developed over the thirty years of their combined experience working with boys and their families.

These men realized many boys’ difficulties arise from limited relational abilities in an increasingly relational world. On their website they state, "How can we see boys as something other than as problems? How can we effectively help boys resolve the difficulties they face? We recognize and support what is natural about boys’ behavior and realize the necessity of helping boys to connect more with themselves and others."

Out of their work with boys, families, and from doing groups for boys in schools, they have developed a solid guidebook for those of you interested in facilitating school-based programs for boys. They call it the BAM! Boys Advocacy and Mentoring: A Leader's Guide to Facilitating Strengths-Based Groups for Boys. In the author's words, "The BAM! Group Guidebook outlines a group experience which introduces school-aged boys to new perspectives on what it means to be male and helps them build the relational skills they need to become healthy men." If you'd like a peak at the book's table of contents, you can download this PDF file. It will let you see the broad scope of subject matter a school-based group can cover.

To learn more about this BAM, the book, and the men doing this work, visit their website.

Please realize that you don't have to be a professional to show up for boys in schools. If you're a motivated man with a couple of guy friends, there is a way you, too, can learn to work with boys. If you are inclined but don't know where or how to start, give me a shout. The need is way too great to have good men on the sidelines; the boys are waiting.

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