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Men Making a Difference in Prince George's County

Gale Horton Gay | 4/24/2013, 9 p.m.
For Robert Howze and his fellow volunteers, there's a rather simple way to combat many of the challenges that young ...
Participants in the Mentoring to Manhood's second annual "Silence the Violence" charity basketball game held recently at Suitland High School in Forestville helped raised nearly $4,000. (Courtesy of Ron Williams/Raw Cinema)

For Robert Howze and his fellow volunteers, there's a rather simple way to combat many of the challenges that young African-American men face – spend quality time with them.

That's what Howze and 10 tutors and 20 mentors do through the nonprofit organization, Mentoring to Manhood, also known as M2M.

Based in Prince George's County, M2M has mentored more than 400 African-American young men since being established eight years ago by co-founders Rob Malone and Therman Evans.

Howze said it began when a group of "guys were sitting around talking about how to make our community better."

"We know the statistics of African-American incarceration, drugs, not graduating," said Howze, adding that they also are aware of the impact that one's upbringing and role models can have on youth.

M2M provides after-school tutoring for 25 boys at Kenmoor Middle School in Landover and Walker Mill Middle School in Capitol Heights. On Saturdays, 60 boys are tutored for two hours and then taught life and leadership skills at Kettering Middle School in Largo, Howze said. In addition to showing them how to deal with anger in healthier ways, they also try to expand their view of career options and take them on field trips and events such as college tours.

"Not just college," said Howze, "but also trades. Our goal is to expose them to other avenues that they may have not thought of."

Among M2M's mentors are: Neal Burks, Arthur Jones-Dove, Keeyon Powell and Ray White. Tutors include Warren Connley, Tiyonna Jenkins, Frederick Moki and Donita Muse.

"What we do is really not rocket science," said Evans. "People think mentoring is this concept out of reach for certain types of people. I am of the view if you have lived for a long enough time and had enough experiences you can pour into young people and coax them and guide them to make better decisions."

Listening – not preaching – is one of the most important elements in the mentor/mentee relationship, said Evans.

Evans said M2M hopes to recruit 100 additional mentors in the next year.

Both Evans and Howze speak with pride of the group's success stories. One young man – an 8th grader used to choke up whenever he had to speak in front of people, Howze said. Now that young man who received public speaking training through M2M is "very outspoken" and last summer served as the emcee for M2M's awards ceremony. Another young man, who the group mentored for four years, was initially disrespectful to his mother and had no ambition, Howze said. His grade point average has risen and after going to a play on Broadway with M2M, he's thinking of pursuing a career in the theater. "His mom constantly sends us praise reports," said Howze.

"When you find something to be inspired by, it changes your whole attitude," he said.

Howze, the father of three who lives in Bowie, said he can relate to the challenges that young black boys face today.

The 38-year-old recalls growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., where he split time between two distinctly different communities – spending part of his time with his father in what he called "the hood" and the rest with his mother in the suburbs. He said he was shot and nearly died before he left Buffalo to go to college.

"I had the opportunity to experience both realms," said Howze. "I'm able to understand where these kids are coming from."

The group also helps the community in other ways.

Recently it joined forces with another mentoring organization – Men Aiming Higher – for their second annual Silence the Violence Charity Basketball game. The event, held April 12 at Suitland High School in Forestville, raised $3,650, which was donated to two families who lost young men to gun violence.

"The violence needs to stop and our collective responsibility needs to begin," said Darryl Barnes, president of Men Aiming Higher.