Caring Adults in Action - Helping America's Youth
“There is no better sign of a community that works than a park filled with kids in bright uniforms playing ball, with bleachers full of parents cheering them on. It’s like the community has given its kids a big hug.”
Daniel S. Varner, Think Detroit
Mrs. Laura Bush speaks during a Helping America’s Youth event at Wigle Community Center in Detroit, Michigan, February 10, 2005. White House photo by Susan Sterner.
The idea for Think Detroit came to Mike Tenbusch and cofounder Daniel S. Varner while the two were lawyers fresh out of law school. The high school and law school classmates were discussing how to make Detroit a better city for young people. They decided that youth sports leagues could change things for youth, and they developed a business plan and raised money to start Think Detroit. Think Detroit, in partnership with the Detroit Police Department and community volunteers, builds character in young people through athletic, academic, and leadership development programs.
Think Detroit recently merged with the Detroit Police Athletic League to form one of the largest inner-city sports leagues in the country, Think Detroit PAL. This year, Think Detroit PAL will serve nearly 13,000 kids with the help of 1,500 volunteers, connecting 1 in 10 Detroit kids with a positive role model through sports programs, leadership camps, and community centers.
“One person, over time, can turn a life around.”
Duncan Campbell, Founder, Friends of the Children
If anyone understands children and their need for positive role models, Duncan Campbell does. His family lived on welfare. His father was in prison. He and his brother often were left on their own, and there was trouble at school. Campbell, however, remembers adults who cared about him: his fifth-grade teacher, his Little League coach, and his football coach.
Mrs. Laura Bush talks with members of “Friends of the Children” during a visit to their headquarters in Portland, Oregon, on April 28, 2005. White House photo by Krisanne Johnson.
He had these role models in mind when he created Friends of the Children, a Portland-based, nationally recognized nonprofit organization that assigns long-term adult mentors—called “friends”—to some of the Portland area’s most vulnerable youth.
Friends of the Children, which Campbell founded in 1993, takes a unique approach to mentoring. Every year, the program chooses the most seriously at-risk children at selected Portland public elementary schools and assigns mentors to each child for 12½ years, starting in the spring of their kindergarten year and continuing through high school. Currently, 35 Friends are guiding, supporting, and mentoring 270 children attending more than 97 schools throughout the Portland metropolitan area.
A Committed Clergy Member
“I’ve never met a hopeful kid who joined a gang.”
Father Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries
Los Angeles, California
Mrs. Laura Bush watches a silk-screen demonstration during a tour of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, California, April 27, 2005. White House photo by Krisanne Johnson.
In 1988, a Los Angeles pastor, Father Gregory Boyle, launched Jobs For A Future, an employment referral center and economic development program for at-risk and gang-involved youth. In 1992, as a response to the civil unrest in Los Angeles, Father Boyle formed Homeboy Industries to create businesses that provide training, work experience and, above all, the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side.
Today, Jobs For A Future/Homeboy Industries is a nationally recognized center that assists 1,000 people a month in redirecting their lives. Through its unique and multiservice approach, Jobs For A Future/Homeboy Industries offers hope to those for whom hope is often foreign. Located in Boyle Heights, a community with arguably the highest concentration of gang activity in Los Angeles, the program now serves all of Los Angeles County, providing employment opportunities, counseling, and many other services (including free tattoo removal). By seeking to address the root causes of gang violence, the program creates opportunities so that at-risk youth can plan their futures and not their funerals. “Nothing stops a bullet like a job” is the guiding principle.