NIU sophomore Anthony Williams is making a difference in the community.
Along with fellow NIU Black Male Initiative (BMI) members Trenton Hiley and Kentrelle Bonner-Butler, the 19-year-old is mentoring young men at the Illinois Youth Center in Chicago through an innovative program sponsored by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
“When I heard about this opportunity, I knew it was something for BMI to be part of,” said Williams, of Forest Park. “What better way to exercise one of our organization’s values, which is community service, and make a difference.”
“Uplifting our youth is a key issue facing our community, and our partnership will help this specific group of young men build their capacity to re-enter successfully, and become contributing members of society,” said Moyer, founder and president of Effective Youth Development.
The inaugural six-week session kicked off in January, and includes youth ages 13 to 18. Each week, Moyer covers key topics designed to help the club members prepare for their release.
In addition to Williams, Hiley and Bonner-Butler, former NIU students Algenoy Alexander, Maurice Thomas, Danielle Pollard and Brian Wright joined Moyer to help facilitate the program.
“They drive to Chicago’s west side to uplift and change the lives of incarcerated young men,” Moyer said. “They share the many lessons that they have learned through NIU’s phenomenal student leadership platform, and help these young men not (relapse) upon their release.”
And according to staff at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the program shows potential for reaching its goals.
“The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is extremely pleased with the early signs of success of the Young Men’s Leadership Reentry JITSU Club,” said Meredith Krantz, spokesperson for the department. “Many youth have expressed an increased desire to complete their GED or earn their diplomas, apply for and attend college, or learn a technical skill, to provide for themselves and their families.”
Krantz said the young men have focused on positive behavioral modification techniques, self-awareness, mentoring and role models, and goal-setting during their time in the club. The possibility of adding a second program is being explored.
“The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is exploring the possibility of a second session, based on the positive feedback of the youth and the open commitment to their own success, increased self-awareness and self-confidence, and increased accountability many have demonstrated as a result participating in the group,” Krantz said.
And the positive feedback goes both ways.
“We have an opportunity to uplift ourselves and to uplift (members of) our community,” Williams said. “We can make a difference. You have to get involved, and you’ll learn more about yourself and your community.”
by Jane Donahue