A Catholic high school located in one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods will host is a free boot camp for black youths looking to avoid gangs, crime and drugs.
The 10-week Manhood Development Camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon April 4 to May 23 for males 12-18-years-old at Leo Catholic High School, 7901 S. Sangamon St. Organizers said the camp’s goal is to provide tools to help youths conquer the daily trials, tribulations and temptations that are often barriers to success.
Jesse Hawkins, 13, said he wants to attend the camp for several reasons. The fatherless youth lives in the Englewood neighborhood and is being raised by his 67-year-old grandmother after his mother went to prison in 2001 for drug possession.
“I never met my father and most of the guys on my block sell drugs or don’t work at all,” Hawkins said. “My grandma always says he wants me to grow up and be a BMW (black man working). And while people might say that’s should be expected of any man, where I come from if you are a black man with a job living in this neighborhood, that is a huge accomplishment.”
The “Building Boys Into Young Men” camp is the brainchild of four black men, who said they share a passion for turning at-risk boys into productive men, and that the camp is a viable way to combat the struggles black youth face daily. By sharing their life experiences with youth organizers said it hopes to save youth from making bad decisions.
“This Manhood Development Camp could be the force that saves black boys and puts them on a positive path in life,” said Mack McGhee, director and founder of the camp. “With so much at stake, young black youth cannot afford to miss such a powerful experience in becoming a man.”
McGhee added like so many black youths he too struggled through life before developing into the man he is today.
A native of south suburban Chicago Heights, McGhee said he was once attacked with a hammer during a fight at a party when he was a teenager. And while recuperating, he decided to turn his life around, give up the street life and dedicate his life to helping youth. After earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Governors State University and a master’s in Political and Justice Studies, he worked several years at child welfare and human services agencies.
The other three camp directors are William Gray Jr., Lamont Brown and Stanley Muhammad.
Gray, dean of students at Leo high school, boasts 18 years experience in the education field. As a physical education instructor and head football coach for the Chicago Park District, Gray said he stresses the importance of self-esteem and interpersonal skill building through teamwork and cooperation to his players.
Brown, co-owner of SuperNatural Cuts and Beauty Salon in Chicago, said even though he excelled in athletics at Thornton Township High School in south suburban Harvey, he also gave in to the lure of the streets, which led to him being incarcerated. While in prison, he said he turned his life around and now uses his own life as a model for rejecting the temptations that led him astray.
Muhammad has over 30 years of experience teaching and developing youth. Having worked in a variety of educational positions Muhammad said now devotes his his life to helping young men succeed and to believe in themselves.
Many young, black males are being raised by single women and live in neighborhoods where there are very few positive role models, something McGhee said the camp will address.
“The Manhood Development Camp is an attempt to engage at-risk youth by providing them with knowledge, skills and techniques that will aid them as they continue to grow and develop. What makes the camp even more impactful is that the youth will be mentored and nurtured by strong African-American males,” explained McGhee. “Each team members understands the obstacles black males face and are willing to share lessons from their mistakes. All of these elements makes the Camp a pivotal link in their journey to manhood.”
For information about the camp, log on to www.mackmcghee.com.