Life is all about choices, and at , we want our program youth to make good ones. This desire is shown in the three overarching goals that we have for our program youth: earn either a high school diploma or GED; and avoid both incarceration and teen pregnancy. Willie, the new that was hired, thanks to the challenge grant made by the Quest Foundation, is making sure that his boys know the value in making good decisions.
Many of Willie’s boys are behind in school. So each time that he and one of his boys get together, they take time to catch up on school work. He gives his boys an option of either playing first or doing homework. He guides his boys’ decision making by telling them the results of each option, “if we play games first, we are going to need to watch the clock and might not be able to have as much fun. If you choose to do homework first, we can get it done and enjoy the rest of the time playing.” After he explains this to his boys, almost all of them choose to start off by doing homework. By giving the boys choices, he is empowering them, but by making sure that they know the consequences, he is teaching them.
Children are more likely to misbehave or get into trouble when there is no authority figure present. He encourages his boys to continue making positive decisions, even when neither Willie nor their parents are present. “People look up to you,” he tells his boys, “and it is important that you are a good role model. Imagine that your parents are with you, would you still misbehave?”
His boys still occasionally make bad decisions, like hitting a sibling or acting out, but overall they are continuing to make positive choices. Earlier in the year, he took a group of his boys to the library. He brought his iPad for his boys to play with once they finish their homework and had some free time. There were several boys with him and they had to take turns. Although the boys could have just stood around and waited, some of them asked if they could spend more time reading or playing study dog, which is a web based game that teaches literacy skills.
By teaching decision-making skills to his boys while they are young, Willie knows that they will be able to make positive choices when they are older. “It is not about where you come from,” he preaches to his boys, “it’s about where you’re going and the decisions that you make along the way that defines you.”