Our History and Our Future
As we go forward into the future, we should always remember the past. For it is there we learn the lessons necessary to live in the present. Our past should be filled by markers and moments of God’s faithfulness to give us confidence in his provision for the future. Here are few of those markers in the life of Boys to Men.
Boys to Men officially began in 1994, but the seeds were planted long before. I was raised by my grandparents in Hancock County, TN in a place called Snake Hollow. Many in our community failed to graduate high school, much less college, lived in small houses that lacked plumbing, and faced limited futures. However, through the love of a mentor, the love of reading, and the church, I was able to attend and graduate from E.T.S.U. My intention was to become a missionary. Little did I realize who I would soon be serving or where.
In the early 80’s I married and my wife Sherry and I became involved in therapeutic group homes for boys. But after living with over 200 teenage boys for 10 years, Sherry and I felt that we had to do something to help boys become the men God intended them to be. So in 1994, with little more than a call and a volunteer from Unaka Avenue Baptist Church, Boys to Men was planted.
We grew quickly to 14 kids (as many as would fit in a van). The group only met once a week since I had a full time job, but soon changed to twice a week to meet with a group of middle school kids. In 1998, we received our first grant which allowed me to go full time and, shortly thereafter, our first girls group began. A second staff person was hired in 1999 and we soon began meeting daily at Central Baptist Church.
During this time, we realized that to effectively reach and impact more kids we needed to recruit and train mentors. So we mentored kids, went to camp, and played and coached many basketball teams.
In 2005, we had our first Mentoring Marathon to draw attention to the needs for mentors and to raise funds. In response we received funds to begin our Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program and our I W8 Abstinence Program which serves over 40 schools in the area.
In 2006, we became homeowners by purchasing the old Dawn of Hope building in Johnson City. We now call it, “The Refuge”. The Refuge has allowed us to have our own on-site after school program, office space, training classrooms, and kitchens to serve upwards of 100 kids a day.
Over the years, we have experienced successes and failures, kids going to college and kids going to jail. We have learned how to do things well and not so well. And now we have learned that it is the time for a change; a change in our mission, our vision, our programming and even our name. So…
Imagine… the impact of 100 elementary school students shouting, “I want to go!” who begin our new
College Preparatory Initiative and know that if they stay in our program, they will be guaranteed a college education.
Imagine… those 100 kids being connected to a professional mentor through school, walking with them through life, and preparing them for college.
Imagine… 100 families having 1st generational college students by the year 2020.
Imagine… 400 other kids being connected to a highly trained, strongly supported, long term mentor.
This dream for what can happen in our community has led us to our new mission and vision.
Our Mission: To impact 100 kids to become 1st generation college students.
Our Vision: By 2020, to holistically love, influence, and impact 500 under-resourced kids through life skills training, mentoring, and a college education with the expectation they will do likewise for others.
Our change in mission has led us to realize that we needed a new name that would reflect that mission. Our new name, Rise Up!, represents this mission and the challenge this entails to our community to help under-resourced kids breakthrough past poverty cycles and to inspire, impact, and influence kids to say, “I want to go!” “I want to be a 1st generation college student!”
Kids becoming1st generation college students require that we partner with families, schools, churches, and community services to provide the skills, resources, and opportunities to succeed. And we need your help as well.
Join us… as we seek to gather prayer partners, mentors, investors and fellow dreamers who desire a revolution of 500 kids changing their world and your community because they were inspired, influenced, and impacted by you.