FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) -- Too often, we hear about young men taking the wrong path in life.
Here’s an in-depth look at a local program that's helping change lives -- and a whole community -- one boy at a time.
"We believe we are our brother's keeper and we are college bound, sir!"
These 20 Miami Middle School eighth graders are passionate about being My Brother's Keeper.
Founded here five years ago, MBK teaches young men not to be good, but great, in mind and body.
"Stay out of trouble, do my work, and focus on my future. How hard is that? It's very hard. Why? Because it's so many distractions that want to bring you down," says 8th grader Dexter Lamb.
That's why the original members, now juniors in high school, are now mentoring the younger ones. A key component of the program.
"We're trying to get them focused on what they need to do in life and we're tying to make them great, instead of being good," says high school junior and My Brother’s Keeper mentor Deion Powers.
Most of these boys have been in the program for three years.
But Ethan Hartman asked to join the group this year to help turn him around.
His grades were slipping, and he knew MBK would not allow members to earn anything less than a B.
"Distractions were I was just hanging around with the wrong people. I was hanging out with people that really didn't care about their grades and could care less about them. They just didn't care. They wanted to be there just to be there with their friends. They didn't want to learn anything. And I'm in an organization now that wants me to do my best, and I want to," Hartman says.
The boys eat lunch together every day, and 170 of them from various middle and high schools meet every Sunday afternoon for study tables and community service projects.
That big time commitment also ensures there's no time to get into trouble.
"I have friends that do smoke weed and drink and everything, and you know, the principles of MBK help me, sound mind and develop a sound body, to where I don't need those things in my life to hang out with friends and have fun. I don't have to destroy my life or destroy my body to have fun and live life," says Kye Black, a high school junior and My Brother’s Keeper mentor.
One boy told us that character building has helped him grow out of being class clown two years ago.
"We can't do that in class because we got to be different than everybody else. It helped me mature a lot," 8th grader Kylon Jarreau says.
However, the rigorous schedule and educational demands -- that each young man must go to college -- isn't for everyone.
"We have a couple people that drop out themselves because they can't fight that hard to get to that level. So it just shows you how hard we push them in order to make them great,” says My Brother’s Keeper mentor and high school junior Keion Powers.
GorDon Martin founded My Brother's Keeper knowing how influential one of his teachers had been to him.
"Our parents haven't graduated. they haven't graduated high school, they haven't graduated college, so there's no one there, there's no tradition of people telling you 'Go to college, get an education, get a good job, get married and have a family and buy a house and invest.' Often that's not happening with our kids. So where it's broken and it's not happening, we try to fill in those gaps," says My Brother’s Keeper founder GorDon Martin.
"It's made a big difference because I always have someone I can rely on, somebody that I know won't leave me and somebody that I can always talk to and will be there for me," says high school junior and mentor Jamarr Patterson.
And it's a passion they say they'll continue for the next generation.
"Now I can pass it down to the people under me, and it's helped me be a better man," Deion Powers says.
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