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Charlotte Amalie
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Not for Profit: Boys to Men

May 3, 2009 — On St. Croix, Boys to Men isn't a boy band from the 1990s — it's mentors instilling honesty, purpose, character and integrity in young men ages 13 to 17.
Boys to Men is a teen mentoring program under Speak the Word Ministries. The goal of mentors is to develop a friendship with boys and assist them in developing and achieving goals.
"We want the boys to learn a better way of doing things," says Jermaine Dennis, director of Boys to Men. "We plant the seed for success in changing their mindset so they can grow from it — for some it may take up to seven years for the seed of success to come to fruit."
They counsel young men with issues of low self-esteem, dishonesty, anger management, academic underachievement, defiance and disrespect, drug abuse, school suspension, self-destruction and criminal activities.
Boys to Men was the brainchild of Pastor Dexter Skepple and began in 2003 to address issues that arise with at-risk young men. The first event it held was a four-day retreat Memorial Day weekend 2003 at the University of the Virgin Islands.
"Pastor Skepple wanted a way to reach out to the community and help young men," Dennis says.
Since then the mentors have counseled more than 500 young men. According to literature about the program, 80 percent of the boys in the program show improvement in school and fewer disciplinary problems, and many graduate from high school and go on to higher education and the military.
"We measure success in different ways," Dennis says. "With some success is staying in school, others going to college, and some it is not getting in legal trouble."
On average 25 boys are enrolled in a two-hour after-school program Monday through Thursday and monthly conferences the last Saturday of the month. The free programs are held at Speak the Word Ministries in Peter's Rest.
"The after-school program is strictly academics with tutoring and getting homework done," Dennis says. "Some of the boys haven't had any academic standards set growing up."
Mentors also work with dropouts to help them prepare for the GED.
The monthly conferences take place from 11:30 a.m to 12:30 p.m. Boys are required to wear a shirt and tie, and they are not permitted to bring cell phones and other electronic equipment to the meeting. The conference lessons cover subjects from educational to practical to spiritual. Some of the lessons are on money management, sex education, workplace etiquette, respecting authority and college counseling.
The young men also get to check out college life, visiting colleges such as Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa., or Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Ga. Dennis showed off the bookstore at Speak the Word, pointing out spiritual CDs.
"Music can also be a bad influence on young men, so we try to change what they listen to," Dennis says.
The boys are also expected to do community service, such as island cleanup.
In the future, Dennis says, Boys to Men wants to expand its services, get into schools and create more parenting programs. The organization always needs volunteers and monetary donations. The program is funded by Speak the Word Ministries, grants and local agencies.
For more information about the programs and organization, call 692-7737.
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