Boys learn to become 'real men' with passport program

It's a sort of anatomy class about what makes up a man, with a focus on the heart. It's subject matter that is desperately lacking in the lives of many boys struggling to grow up today.

"The only real man I've had in my life is my grandfather," said Amir Pleasant, an 8th grader at Everett's Voyager Middle School.

Amir never knew his father, who has been in and out of jail most of Amir's life. In just 2nd grade Amir started having anger issues, and was acting out at school. By 7th grade he was on the edge of following in his father's footsteps.

"I was doing really bad in school because I hung out with the wrong crowd and that got me in a lot of trouble," he said.

On Tuesday, Amir was one of 7 students at Voyager Middle School graduating from the Boys and Girls Club's "Passport To Manhood" program. It's being taught in Everett schools for the very first time. The program is an attempt by the Boys and Girls Club to create positive role models for boys, and combat what teacher Jake Marsh calls, "an American epidemic of 30-year-old boys."

"If you can catch them early, at this crossroads, you show them there is another way they can go," said Marsh.

Students are handpicked by school staff for the program, but they must opt in. They are not forced to participate. Only one student in this year's program didn't graduate. Boys are taught about respect, kindness and responsibility.

"This has taught me to be responsible, open minded and to communicate more with others," said Antonny Alberto-Camacho, reading an essay in front of the class.

Students are also instructed to set aside childish things and begin the process of becoming a young adult.

"I'm probably going to do away with video games," said Amir. "Too many hours. A waste of time."

Amir says he is already seeing a change within himself. He isn't as quick to anger, and is doing better in school.

He believes that becoming the man he wants to be will be a long, complicated journey, but at least now he's pointed in the right direction.

"I just have to keep focused," he said. "I can do this. Everybody needs someone to look up to and I can be that person."

For more information about the "Passport to Manhood" program visit: http://www.bgca.org/whatwedo/HealthLifeSkills/Pages/PassporttoManhood.aspx


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