Becoming a Role Model

A story about Youth Development & Prevention

Richard can put his finger on the day his young life began to turn around.

As a sixth-grader, Richard hung out with the wrong crowd.  He knew people in gangs, “and they influenced me to do bad things,” he recalls.  At home, his parents were having problems.  There were, in his words, “no role models” in his life.

Then one day Richard joined a program sponsored by Aunt Martha’s.  Called the Jadoni Project, the program provided positive development and academic enrichment for boys between age 10 to 14.

Something the program coordinator said caught Richard’s attention:  “We want to make a better man out of you.”

Richard stuck with the Jadoni Project through eighth grade.  Through Jadoni, Richard met his friend and mentor Jamie Barnett, prevention coordinator at Aunt Martha’s.

“I’m just so glad I came out that one day to Jadoni,” Richard said.  “I’d probably be hanging out with my friends right now if I hadn’t gotten involved with Aunt Martha’s.  I wouldn’t be the person I am right now, for sure.”

The person Richard is now is an active 17-year-old student-athlete in high school.

But the most rewarding part of Richard’s life these days are the two afternoons a week he spends at his former middle school.  That’s when Richad helps his mentor facilitate Aunt Martha’s new Positive Adolescent Choices Training (PACT) program.  PACT is helping sixth-grade students learn violence prevention strategies, anger management skills, and other communication skills to avoid potentially violent or dangerous situations.

For his work with PACT, Richard receives college fund assistance through the federal AmeriCorps program.

“I enjoy being able to give back to the community,” Richard said.  “I’d be satisfied to help just one kid, the way someone helped me.”

Following graduation, Richard is considering the architectural program at a nearby university.  But in the meantime, he’s enjoying the positive impact he’s making on students.

“I used to think ‘How could any adult ever help?’”  Richard said.  “They don’t understand kids.  But now I see that if these kids feel like they can talk to me, that I’m there for them if they need me — like Jamie was for me — then maybe I can help.  … If more people would help, we’d have fewer problems in the world.”

Aunt Martha’s 2000