“You could be that one person to make a difference in the life of a teen,” challenged Jason Sole, author of the book From Prison to PhD. Sole carries a heavy rap sheet from his past. A former drug dealer and gang banger, Sole put in years of hard work and found the courage and resilience to turn his life around. He is now a proud family man and an assistant professor of Criminal Justice. He manages his own consulting business and tours the country as a motivational speaker, a gang prevention specialist, and a trainer for the One Circle Foundation.
Sole attributes much of his success to the mentors in his life – the people who believed in him and his ability to realize his full potential. Sponsored by the Los Alamos JJAB and funding from CYFD, Sole recently traveled from Minnesota to Los Alamos to lead a training for facilitators of the Council for Boys and Young Men. Twenty-four professionals from New Mexico and Colorado gathered to participate in this intensely rewarding experience.
“This was one of the best trainings I have ever attended,” said Michelangelo Lobato, counselor at Chamisa Elementary School. “I came here completely deflated,” said a case manager from Rio Arriba County. “This training has reminded me why I do this work. I am fired up and ready to go back.”
The Council for Boys and Young Men is a new program for Los Alamos County. It is a strengths-based group approach to promote boys’ and young men’s safe, strong, and healthy passage through the pre-teen and adolescent years. The Council meets a core developmental need in boys for strong, positive relationships.
Over an eight week period, the participants explore the issues young men face: substance use, male stereotypes, violence, bullying, definitions of success, and family and relationship dynamics. JJAB has scheduled groups for both high school and middle school students. Lobato will facilitate the high school group and Teen Center Assistant Director George Marsden will facilitate the middle school group.
For a number of years, the Los Alamos JJAB has been facilitating similar groups for young women. Girls Circle provides a safe space for creative expression and rich discussion. JJAB’s Kristine Coblentz facilitates Girls Circle, an eight week class that encourages participants to find their voices, communicate more fully, and critically think through their behaviors and choices.
The curriculum explores topics of interest for young women:
- family relationships;
- body image;
- healthy boundaries;
- risk behaviors; and
- decision making.
Girls Circle and the Council are unique opportunities for youth to connect with each other and with an adult mentor. The group format cultivates deep sharing and listening around topics, which are highly relevant to teens. In this modern world, it is rare for people to take the time to sit face to face and really hear one another. Circles provide this opportunity and more.
Mentors bring a non-judgmental, supportive attitude toward facilitation and rely on the power of the group to reflect on topics, offer new perspectives, and inspire behavioral change when appropriate. Through this group process, young men and women build confidence and begin to get a sense of the power they hold in forming their own identities and building positive futures for themselves. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Classes for girls/young women and boys/young men for both high school and middle school age youth will begin the first and second weeks of February. More information can be found on the JJAB website at www.losalamosjjab.com or by calling Kristine Coblentz at 505.661,4097. Online registration is available and encouraged as space is limited.