- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) - An after-school mentoring program for at-risk youth in Sheboygan is helping teen boys gain the knowledge and skills necessary to transition from youth to adulthood.

The Strength Through Leadership program, which operates through a contract with the Sheboygan County Department of Health and Human Services, encourages building confidence through life skills, USA Today Network-Wisconsin (https://shebpr.es/2ku3bDn) reported.

Coaches Courtney Gatlin, Antonio Humphrey and Andrew Jakus meet four times a week with 12- to 16-year-old boys referred to them by county social workers. The program provides group activities as well as one-on-one sessions.

“We go to baseball games, hockey games and, on a day-to-day basis, we cook, play video and board games, and go to the YMCA,” Gatlin said. “We talk to them about their problems every day. We let them express themselves the way they know best and, in this space, it’s a lot easier.”

The meeting space, in a former pizza parlor, has many entertainment options, including gaming consoles, a ping pong table and a weight set.

“We also do a thing called leadership hour where we sit down and do something that’s culturally enriching,” Gatlin said. “We talk about current events, or watch TED talks or other videos to get them engaged.”

The mentors reward positive decisions and try to make the teens more aware of the consequence of destructive or negative decisions. Gatlin said they serve as positive male role models and work closely with each teen to help them find their passions.

“Whatever the kids are into, we try to tap into,” he said. “We like to push them toward something extra, like sports or something that interests them. The main thing is to try and tap into something that interests them and to push them in that direction. If not, we help them find friends they can consider friends.”

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Information from: Sheboygan Press Media, https://www.sheboygan-press.com


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