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Developing character in at-risk youth
The Youth Leadership Foundation mentors boys for academic and life success
Every Saturday morning, boys from Corpus Christi School in Falls Church, St. Charles Borromeo School in Arlington and St. Michael School in Annandale, along with boys from various parish religious education programs, meet at St. Michael School for tutoring and mentoring.
The program is run by the Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF), an organization that was created in 1997 to serve disadvantaged youths in Washington, D.C. The program is founded on four principles: academics, mentoring, character building and parental involvement.
In Virginia, the program is sponsored by the Arlington diocesan Office of Multicultural Ministries and the Spanish Apostolate, both of which are funded by the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal.
Corinne Monogue, program assistant for Multicultural Ministries, said that students are recruited through ads placed in weekly Spanish bulletins, announcements on Spanish radio stations and presentations made at diocesan principal’s meetings.
YLF has two programs — Tenley Achievement Program (TAP) for boys and Program for Academic and Leadership Skills (PALS) for girls. The session at St. Michael is for boys in grades three through six.
The first Virginia class began last September with 20 students. The 2009 spring session, which started in January, has 23 boys enrolled and will run until May 9.
“We’re shooting for 30 (students) though, so we’ll be accepting applications until we hit that number,” said David Cook, program manager for the Virginia YLF and a parishioner of St. Michael Church.
The program depends on volunteers to work with the boys. Cook had six men who worked in the fall and eight for the current spring session.
A typical session begins with a 15-minute discussion of current events. That’s followed by a 50-minute session on language arts.
“(We’re working) to improve their reading comprehension,” Cook said.
Another 50-minute session follows, concentrating on building math skills. A character formation class is next.
The character session concentrates on building virtues like forgiveness, honesty, humility and self-control, plus living a virtuous life and setting long and short-term goals.
Every Saturday the boys set goals for the week.
“They set three goals for themselves: academic, character and one other,” said Cook.
They put the goals on note cards and the boys mark off a box each day if they’ve done something to achieve their goal.
The last 20 minutes of the class are spent on sports. On a nice day they go outside and play flag football or soccer.
Cook said that attendance is good. Parents are supportive of the program and try to get their child to the session on Saturdays. Cook said that they have an average 75 percent attendance rate. The program is planning to add monthly sessions with the parents to cover topics important to them.
People are noticing a change in the boys who participate.
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Therese Elizabeth Bauer, principal of St. Michael, wrote a note to Cook and said, “The students are very happy to participate and have expressed the value of the extra educational help received through this program. The character values that are taught to the boys is also a strength in their development.”
Cook is pleased with the progress being made.
“We want to establish a solid foundation with these boys, in character and in academics, so that they stay on the right path during the often tumultuous adolescent years. We accomplish this primarily through the positive male role models they work with on a weekly basis — role models who are hard to come by in their respective communities,” he said.
Find out more
For information on the Youth Leadership Foundation at St. Michel School contact
David Cook at 202/363-4118 or email@example.com. Financial aid is available to help with program costs.
For information on the Youth Leadership Foundation contact Mike Barvick, at 202/464-0668 or visit helpingkids.org.