Officials at Pace Community Action Agency are celebrating five years of helping local young men learn the life skills they need to be successful.
Pace launched its Boys and Beyond Program in 2012 to help fourth- and fifth-grade boys, specifically those without a strong male role model at home, learn everything from how to tie a tie to how to change the oil in a vehicle.
Last year, the program served about 15 youngsters, but Pace wants to reach more.
“We're hoping to have between 20 and 25 boys this year,” said Lori Koby, an administrative assistant at Pace. “We want to get the word early out so parents can contact their school counselors and let them know this is something they want their sons to be involved in.”
The program is centered around hands-on sessions that focus on the most basic of life skills. They draw help from the expertise of several local volunteers, with emphasis on everything from managing their finances to personal hygiene and simple politeness, too.
“The success of this program is dependent upon the participation of our male volunteers and the time that they spend with the boys,” said Pace CEO Bertha Proctor. “This program has made an impact on the participants, the families, the facilitators and on Pace staff. So we are excited and happy to be able to fund this project again.”
Norbert Brown, an automative technology instructor at Vincennes University, joined the program early on. Primarily, he teaches the boys basic automative maintenance, but it often goes far beyond that, he said.
“So many tidbits of information are passed along,” Brown said. “We talk about things like shaking hands, being polite, grooming, the importance of being on time.
“We show the boys how to safely change a flat tire, the importance of inflating tires properly and safely. We teach them how to check the oil and little things a lot of people don't know, like not to wash a car with dish soap. It removes all the wax, and your car isn't protected. And we talk a lot about the tools we use while we're doing all this.”
Brown said they boys show up excited and eager to learn. They form bonds, too, both with one another and the men there to teach them. There's even a competitiveness, he said, that emerges and drives the boys to learn and do more.
“They certainly enjoy it,” Brown said. “They come knowing they're going to eat, learn and have a good time.
“And it's very rewarding for me, too,” he said. “I think it's important that we give young people the attention they need to help them be all they can, so they can grow up and be productive members of society. Let's get them excited at a young age so they set some goals and achieve them.”
Greg Parsley, superintendent of the Vincennes Community School Corp., too, has been a vocal proponent of the program, arguing now that it's “changing the lives” of Knox County's young men.
“So many young males do not have a strong male influence in their lives,” Parsley said. “Any type of program like this is a huge benefit. Anything that can help or contribute in a positive way, I'm appreciate of.”
The Boys and Beyond sessions will be from 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays at Pace, 525 N. Fourth St., beginning Feb. 6, 2018. The program's final session will be on March 27.
Boys are eligible now for enrollment but only through a recommendation from their schools' school worker or counselor. Parents, too, can get applications for the program by contacting school officials.
And any local men interested in volunteering for Boys and Beyond should contact Pace at at 812-882-7927.
Information about the program is also available via Pace's website at www.pacecaa.org.