A Great City With a Dream Unfulfilled
Atlanta, Georgia is a major global commercial center and home to the busiest airport in the world. The city is home to 26 Fortune 1000 companies including some of the world’s most popular brands like Coca Cola, UPS, Home Depot and Delta Airlines. Yet even with such great wealth, intellectual capacity and rich culture, the city continues to struggle as a youth development garden.
Fighting to get past the biggest cheating scandal in American education, stark statistics for how badly the city does at helping poor children rise out of poverty and being ranked as one of the ten worst cities to raise a family in, Atlanta needs help. The city in which Dr. King’s dream was born is very much in a struggle to see their own young people realize it.
Boy With a Ball relocated their global headquarters to Atlanta in July of 2013 in part because of their desire to help turn the tide in the situation facing the city’s youth. Immediately after arriving in Georgia’s capital city, research was done to identify the city’s most challenging areas. Atlanta Public Schools surfaced immediately as a critical need.
Helping Atlanta Public Schools Gain Velocity
In an effort to make a difference, Boy With a Ball’s Velocity cross-age mentoring program was launched at Maynard H. Jackson High School in 2014.
Velocity comes from the C.A.M.P (Cross Age Mentoring Program) designed by mentoring expert, Dr. Michael Karcher, who teamed with Boy With a Ball to implement the program at Harlandale High School in San Antonio, Texas in January of 2011.
In its first year, Velocity recruits a group of 40 high school students and utilizes a highly-effective training curriculum to prepare these students to be mentors for middle school students. Once trained, each high school mentor is paired with one middle school mentee for an entire school year that includes participating in an after school program once a week together. Mentoring takes place within a flow of exciting activities, snacks and relational interaction.
One of the secrets to Velocity’s impact on students is that it is also built around engaging the students’ families with home visits by staff and quarterly Super Saturday festivals that invite the mentors, mentees and their parents to a day of fun and friendship. In San Antonio, Velocity invited a group of 40 high school students to be mentors out of a 9th grade class of over 900 students. Now, three years later, all 40 of the Velocity mentors are graduated, while only 325 of the rest of their class did so.
Launching BWAB’s Transformative Community Building Program in Atlanta’s Westside
An additional flashing red light for Atlanta’s future was the city’s westside. These neighborhoods have the highest crime rate per capita in Georgia and the highest heroin use in the southeast. 33% of the homes in the community need to be razed and 40% of residents live on $1,000 per month or less.
Boy With a Ball began an official partnership with the historic organization, City of Refuge, an 18 year fixture on the westside that is “a one-stop shop for those in crisis.” BWAB’s Transformative Community Building Program provides a way to augment City of Refuge’s impact by mobilizing disengaged youth populations to become catalysts for community development in the Vine City/English Avenue neighborhood.
In January of 2016, Atlanta university students were recruited by the Boy With a Ball Atlanta team to begin Saturday morning walkthroughs to get to know every member of the community and build relationships with them. Work is also being done to provide mentoring relationships to youth and community members in order to help them reach their dreams. Finally, supportive small groups are being launched for community members facing similar situations including GED groups, job skills training groups, a women’s group and more. (See TVOMS:C story for how it all works)
Boy With a Ball will work to scale the Community Building Program and Velocity Cross Age Mentoring Program across the city to see young people in Atlanta not only fulfill Dr King’s dream but their own dreams as well.