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We are midway through the second week of our three programs making an impact in Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. one boy at a time. We are straight-up dealing with the issues our nation faces in racism, public education, poverty, and leadership in the inner cities where there is embedded resentment and anger. There is a way out, there are many ways out and we are building that trust way out through a relationship highway from three of our country’s great academic institutions with their staffs, their students, and community educators alongside one of America’s greatest institutions the Marines to give courage, education, confidence, skill sets, discipline and belief to lead and break the cycle. Here are three vignettes from this week. Academically – Northwestern University Youth Impact Program

Progressive thinking from private school experience as the academic director and her teachers have provided a successful experimental curriculum for inner City boys from Chicago and Evanston in the confines of Northwestern University participating in their Youth Impact Program. With an understanding of limited attention spans and focus of young adolescent boys, a continual daily rotating 15 to 20-minute classroom schedule broken into 5 different disciplines has been proven most effective. The boys are broken up into 5 different groups, drafted on their athletic skills testing by the Northwestern Student-Athletes and assigned players as well as a homeroom teacher. The five disciplines are made up of three core subjects, one applied integration of the core, and one brain training class. The core academic courses are Math, English, and Science with an additional class integrating the three subjects in an applied manner on projects that have to be worked on together In groups of two to three. Last week Science class was designing and building slingshot rockets, Math was doing probabilities and English had a profound discussion on an equally profound book “Tears of a Tiger”. The integrated class was building Trestle Bridges together out of Popsicle sticks and glue to compete in a weight-bearing contest between all the bridges made.

Students playing with sticks

Team and Selflessness – University of Michigan Youth Impact Program

800 yards in the heat on a humid day in Ann Arbor is a long way to run fast, compete with your teammates and finish together as a team unit in your competition. There are five teams competing and each of the teams is varied in size, shape, age, and demeanor. Naturally, the small and most athletic boys were way out front of the rest of their team even lapping some of their teammates. What was special was after the fastest came in breathless and wore out as gave it all up to be first or try to be first, they, the leaders had the natural without guidance to run back to the slowest teammate, encourage him, and run with him to finish the 800. What was more impressive was as each team ran by themselves for time, the other teams and their boys came out to run with the slowest boys on the opposite and competing teams. This would have not happened a week ago as most if not all of the boys came in with embedded self-survival skills of just taking care of themselves.

Students posing for a race in field

Fortitude Challenge – University of Maryland Youth Impact Program

In College Park, Maryland, halfway between Baltimore and DC, who would have thought that the cultures of two groups that represent two different urban backgrounds so close could cause friction, fighting, and prejudices of each other? It is happening and our Marines are encountering challenges that they have not seen. We have rough kids still in the program, there is attrition in this first-year program as we grapple with the reality of the kids their problems at home, their anger from their environment, and their lack of respect for authority. We have kids from foster homes, we have special needs kids, we have kids from alternative schools. I had not heard of alternative schools until today where I was told that kids at this age that have tried to kill someone get put into this type of school. It is a challenge of the proportion of kids in the face of authority, cussing out authority and crossing the line knowing that there are no repercussions but physical exercise and dismissal from the program. We have kids that won’t show up because they have to write 4 paragraphs as an assignment. We are in the belly of the beast of the Inner City and in our first week, we are coming out of it in our second week, with the majority of those still in the program, driving with Grit to stay and finish, we retain tough cases and we are getting trust to open up those wounds of anger to understanding why and most of it is not getting the love they need and want.

Coach talking to students in training room

Permanently Impacting Our Nation’s At-Risk, Inner-City Youth