"In the wake of a host of violent and tragic events involving boys and young men, many are asking what we as a society are doing wrong in the way we are raising our boys. Why are we so often failing to develop character in our boys? Why are so many boys in crisis? What qualities should we be trying to instill in young males? An entire generation of boys is growing up without a clear idea of what it means to be a man. But there is hope!" - Dr. James Dobson: Bringing Up Boys
Boys today are in serious trouble, including many who seem normal and to be doing just fine. Confused by society’s mixed messages about what’s expected of them as boys, and later as men, many feel a sadness and disconnection from the world around them. Many boys have developed remarkably fragile self-esteems, and the rates of both depression and suicide in boys are frighteningly on the rise.
In our current public educational system, boys are now twice as likely as girls to be labeled as “learning disabled.” Boys constitute up to 67 percent of our special education classes, and in some school systems are up to ten times more likely to be diagnosed with a serious emotional disorder – most likely attention deficit disorder (for which many boys receive potent medications with potentially serious side effects). Increasingly boys are more likely to endure disciplinary problems, be suspended from classes, or actually drop-out from school entirely.
Boys are experiencing serious trouble outside school as well. According to an article in published in Psychology Today (Teen Depression-Boys: Adolescent Males Face a Unique Set of Pressures; May 21, 2007) “Rates of anxiety disorders and depression are soaring among boys. For the first time, depression among males is nearly as prevalent as among females in this group.” Adolescent males find themselves facing a set of unique pressures. Many belong to the first generation of divorce and/or single parent households. Instead of a stable and supportive family base to keep them from feeling overwhelmed at times of stress, many are the products of absentee parents and conflict.
This correlation between low school performance, depression and limited family support tells us that boys are up to three times more likely than girls to be a victim of a violent crime (other than sexual assault) and between four to six times more likely to commit suicide.
These statistics are even more magnified among African American boys and young men.
"An entire generation of African American men born between 2000 and 2010 is at-risk of becoming dysfunctional members of our society, even more than the previous decade."
According to numbers quoted from the US Department of Education, African American males make up only 16 percent of the student population, but occupy as many as 32 percent of the seats in some special education programs. Those numbers are about the same for Latino students as well. In gifted education classes, the numbers are inversely proportionate — white students make up more than twice the percentage of students in gifted programs than in regular education programs. The proliferation of dynamic social and cultural problems (i.e., substance abuse/use, criminal activity, dropping out of school, lack of parenting, abject poverty, lack of male role models, etc.) in the “urban core” has drastically increased the probability of failure for many young African American males.
The processing required to reverse this negative trend for boys and young men must be long term and innovative. Programs must be devised to attack the negative elements holding boys and young men at such high risk to become dysfunctional members of society. Caring pathways must be created to access and harness opportunities for these young people to extend their abilities, strengths, hopes and dreams beyond the boundaries of the neighborhood.
The Urban Ranger Corps (URC) is an organization based in Kansas City, MO that provides boys and young men ages 12 to 18 with a unique opportunity to develop the appropriate life skills necessary for them to become successful and contributing members of society. Over the past 13 years, URC has provided year-round programming designed to assist boys and young men in discovering their individual talents, skills and abilities while guiding them successfully from childhood to adulthood. Currently, they offer each participant a global view in the content areas of Career & Academic Enhancement, Financial & Entrepreneurial Education and Neighborhood & Community Involvement. URC makes available to boys and young men a comprehensive program that facilitates and expands their interest in activities that will augment their future personal growth and development as members of a worldwide human resource pool.
URC President, Erik Dickinson says that, "the work to be done at the urban core of our community is paramount and must continue to be inclusive of all boys from childhood through adolescence and pre-adulthood." URC's major priority is to the developmental pieces surrounding a so-called “lost generation” of boys and young men. Their perspective is, as this generation of boys and young men mature, a void grows in their lives that leave them less proficient and interested in productive and worth-while activities. URC believes their task is to fill this void with viable activities that will promote boys and young men to utilize their time to become involved in positive endeavors that will continue throughout most of their lifetime. Although the foundations of URC programming is job skill building and community service, today they work year-round in concert with a plethora of other sub-level activities (i.e., entrepreneurship, economics, conflict resolution, leadership training, etc.) to build a process designed to upgrade each young man's complete ability to become successful and productive citizens.
"URC is a program of the future and is designed to choke-out the long-term problems facing boys and young men that leave them without hope for his future."
URC provides solutions for a portion of the community’s “lost generation” of young men and establishes a model designed to upgrade quality of life for the entire community. The current URC program model is designed to work as a comprehensive community based system that promotes and shares ownership of its program success with the entire population of Kansas City.
All programs and activities are designed to offset some of the major problems affecting youth in the urban core while at the same time working to upgrade the status of our future human resource pool. Their vision is to infuse a strong building block into their city by offering high impact programming in a small group format that can be seamlessly duplicable. By providing specific and intentional services and activities, each participant will have a greater opportunity to be viable benefactors and future contributors of URC and the Greater Kansas City community.
For more information about the Urban Ranger Corps visit their website at www.urckc.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.