Local organization funds Ottawa County schools’ Men in the Making clubs

Local organization funds Ottawa County schools’ Men in the Making clubs
Posted on 10/25/2017
Through a $12,000 donation, Partners for Ottawa County, Inc., is sponsoring Men in the Making Clubs at six different Ottawa County schools. Those present for the check presentation were (left to right) Northeast Tech’s Mike Mitchell, POCI’s Lee Hilliard, Tyler Hubbard, Maria Olsen, Vice President James Pilant, and President Jordan Barlow, Northeast Tech’s April Blackwell, POCI’s Mackenzie Garst, Northeast Tech’s Sara Stephens and POCI Treasurer Safari Moore.

Partners for Ottawa County, Inc. (POCI) recently donated $12,000 to give young men a greater chance at success. POCI is a community coalition dedicated to improving the quality of life, fostering hope and creating opportunity. The coalition unites local people, businesses and organizations in a dedicated alliance to address health, youth development and poverty. 

“I believe the purpose of POCI is to build relationships with organizations in the community who believe in creating a better Ottawa County for everyone,” said POCI’s Youth Development Committee Chair Mackenzie Garst. “POCI believes that we are better together therefore we strive to create a place to foster those relationships.”

POCI’s donation is the initial investment needed to get the 1 Million Men in the Making (MIM) program off the ground in Ottawa County. MIM is a mentoring program, complete with curriculum and impact studies that measure the growth of the clubs’ participants. The hands-on activities are aimed at teaching junior high boys life skills while building moral character. The organization’s slogan is “Transforming boys into confident, capable men.”

This large donation is a result of a fundraising drive by several Northeast Tech employees.

“While a part of NORA’s Leadership class, we chose Men in the Making as our service project due to the long-term impact something like this could have on the workforce,” said Northeast Tech’s Organizational Leadership Coordinator Sara Stephens. “We have a goal of getting this program in as many of the schools in Northeast Tech’s district as possible.”

Employees of Northeast Tech have diligently worked to secure funding to reach that goal. It costs $2000 per club to provide the curriculum, mentoring resources, and a club kit for each participant. Through POCI’s gift, the MIM curriculum will be provided to the middle schools in Afton, Commerce, Fairland, Miami, Quapaw and Wyandotte. 

“We believe in impact investing,” said POCI President Jordan Barlow. “We saw this as an opportunity to implement an evidence-supported program in a sustainable way. We are excited not only for the difference it could make in the lives our young men, but also because we are the first county to have the clubs offered in all of our school districts.”

School representatives are grateful for the donation.

"We are excited about additional mentor opportunities for some of our young men,” said Justin Chase, Principal of Will Rogers Middle School in Miami. “Many of them lack strong male role models in their lives and this program allows us to reach out to some of those students.”

Moving forward, POCI’s strategy is to work with the University of North Florida, which is included in the club start-up cost, to collect data from each school, and use that feedback as the platform for grant requests and fundraising campaigns. Through partnerships with local businesses and organizations, the organization hopes to cultivate enough resources to continue supporting this program, and then include the soon-to-be-released Girl Power material.

“We are motivated to maximizing our impact, and it's inspiring to have the opportunity to positively impact an entire generation of young men and women,” said Barlow. 

POCI members believe Men in the Making creates the foundation mentor-mentee relationships can build from in hopes of teaching young boys how to become productive and responsible young men.

“I can say from personal experience that offering a mentor relationship to these young men will be the most valuable part of this program,” said Barlow. “The relationship goes beyond the typical classroom dynamic to provide hands-on training in real-world tasks. Learning these practical life skills will not only influence their day-to-day life, but it also builds character in a way that will make them better citizens.” 

“I believe many of our communities most vulnerable youth are one mentor away from becoming a success story,” added Garst. “Although our community lacks many resources, we do not lack positive role models who believe in giving back to our youth.”

That sentiment is echoed by the school representatives, many of which have had a personal experience with mentoring.

“Reflecting on my life when I was a teenager I was very fortunate to have many excellent men that impacted my life in positive ways,” said Chase. “My hope is that this program will make a lasting impression on the young men that will be a part of it.”

For more information on POCI, search Partners for Ottawa County, Inc. on Facebook. For more information on the Men in the Making clubs, visit www.1mclubs.com. If you would like to sponsor a club in a school near you, contact Northeast Tech’s Sara Stephens at 918-476-8252.

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