We’re in a mad dash to child proof our house–cordoning off areas, stopping up outlets, replacing curtain cords. Our son is making his first attempts at crawling, flapping around on his stomach like a happy, smiling fish. As with everything he does, it’s amazing.
With summer in full swing, some of us at JustGive are taking advantage of the extra daylight to enjoy a few extra moments with the little ones in our lives. It makes sense that July would be National Make a Difference to Children Month.
This observance gives us the chance to reflect on how each of us can change a child’s life. There are many ways to make a difference, including: volunteering as a mentor, tutoring a child or signing a petition to advocate for children’s rights. One way that extends far beyond your arm’s reach is to support an organization working to improve the lives of children…every day.
Whether you already involved with an organization or need some guidance (visit the JustGive Guide for great ideas!), JustGive can help you celebrate this month generously. If you’re interested in helping disabled, disadvantaged or sick children and their families or supporting art, sports or outdoor experiences for them, it’s easy, online, to find and give to a charity working throughout the country or even in your local community.
Personally, one of my favorite youth programs is Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers.
Teen program offers a different path
In 1987, Dr. Joseph Marshall, a middle school teacher, and Jack Jacqua, a school counselor, started Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers with the idea that well-intentioned prevention programs for children were not enough to address the ingrained culture of violence in their lives. To keep young people alive and unharmed by violence and free from incarceration, Street Soldiers provide young people with the opportunity and support to build positive lives for themselves and move into contributing roles in society.
Marshall and Jacqua spread the Street Soldiers approach throughout local communities by training hundreds of interveners in community organizations and public schools. They also reached out through their radio show and contacted policymakers who are helping make the Street Soldiers methods the norm in violence prevention.
To date, Street Soldiers can claim 141 college graduates (another 60 Omegas are in colleges across the country), 63 nationwide projects which use their violence prevention methods, and 13 radio station affiliates which carry the Street Soldiers syndicated radio program.
But the numbers don’t adequately show the organization’s impact. The Potrero Review (San Francisco, CA) summarized:
“If Omega Boys Club had a poster child, it’d be Andre Aikins. Aikins grew up in Oakland and found himself entangled in the world of gangs and violence. His tough attitude and disinterest in education got him kicked out of numerous public schools. But his life changed when he met Marshall at a high school assembly.
Aikins was skeptical but intrigued by Marshall’s refrain of “If you knew what I knew, you wouldn’t do what you do.” Aikins confronted Marshall after the assembly and demanded to know what he meant. Marshall said he’d show him, and brought Aikins to Omega. Shortly after, Aikins became a regular participant, and with the help of the Academy, he received his GED and attended college on an Omega scholarship. After graduating with a degree in Math Education, Aikins got a job teaching at a middle school that’d kicked him out years before, and eventually became the school’s Vice Principal.
Today, Aikins is Omega’s Operations Manager. Aikins wears crisp, white sneakers and thin-framed glasses. His tattoos peek out of a tucked-in polo shirt. “I wouldn’t have the life I have now if it weren’t for Omega,” he said. “I had to give back in the way it was given to me.” Aikins isn’t the only one to stay loyal to the program; two other former students also serve on the board.”
My baby boy may only be about to crawl, but every day I work at being that positive force in his life that guides him in the right direction. He is also the reason why I support organizations like Omega Boys Club/Street Soldiers with big ideas to make the lives of all children better.
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Pass this on to friends and family who care about making a difference for children.