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Published: Sunday, 10/22/2006

Program touts mentoring for teenage boys

Alfred 'Coach' Powell speaks to a group of teenagers during the Man Up project conference at the Wyndham Hotel. Alfred 'Coach' Powell speaks to a group of teenagers during the Man Up project conference at the Wyndham Hotel.

Toledo took on the KKK yesterday. And, no, it wasn't the Ku Klux Klan.

Rather, it was a destructive lifestyle that sociologist Alfred "Coach" Powell euphemistically described as "Kids Killing Kids."

Mr. Powell used the analogy to describe the trauma that can be inflicted upon people by men who act irresponsibly.

The emotional toll can go beyond simple hurt feelings and include rape and abandonment - even death, he said.

The message was delivered at yesterday's Man Up Conference in downtown Toledo's Wyndham Hotel to 150 teens and 50 men who vowed to serve as their mentors. Attendees gave Mr. Powell a standing ovation for his keynote speech.

"I refuse to let you throw your life away," Mr. Powell of Dayton told the teens.

The conference, the second of its kind in Toledo, spanned five hours and was sponsored by the city of Toledo Youth Commission and social service agencies.

Organizers hope it will inspire long, meaningful relationships between the mentors and the teens, most of whom do not live with their fathers.

Stephen MacDonald, a YMCA associate director, said the mentoring program was impressive - the largest such program geared toward young men - that he's seen evolve during his five years with the organization.

Boys deal with stress, fear, and hurt in a significantly different way than girls do, he said.

That appears to make them more vulnerable to manipulation by the worst influences. Many adults who are confident in guiding girls through such challenges are stymied by some of the problems that boys present, Mr. MacDonald said.

He said he believes good mentoring can make a difference.

"If telling someone what not to do was sufficient, the world would be a perfect place today. We'd be living in paradise," Mr. MacDonald said.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said in his introductory speech that saving this generation will require tough love, including holding teens to high expectations. And he said he mourned what he termed as the loss of two generations of youngmen who are filling prisons.

Dwayne Morehead, co-executive director of the city of Toledo Youth Commission and organizer of yesterday's event, said he planned to follow through himself by handing out his home phone number to all 150 teens who participated in the event.

Yesterday's conference was supported in part by the youth commission's commitment of about $4,800.

Chance for Change, an after-school enrichment program, contributed $1,500.

Teens in attendance said they picked up good information.

Kris Davis, 13, said the advice he got about staying off the streets was important. He said it is important to set a good example for children.

Joseph Ridley, 14, said he liked the ideas presented on how mind, spirit, and body all work together.

James Sutton, 16, said he was intrigued by the economic lessons he received, such as being a productive member of society and not just a consumer.

Jaron Williams, 18, said the style in which the messages were delivered were powerful because they were "so real."

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.

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