May 27, 2015, Benton Harbor – On Wednesday, May 27, 2015, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor celebrated some committed young men at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center (190 W. Empire, Benton Harbor, Michigan). During the fundraising breakfast, young men were recognized for completion of the Passport to Manhood program, and Tra’Vone Shannon, age 16, was awarded 2015 Young Man of the Year.
Club boys, ages 9 to 18, take part in the Passport to Manhood program, an integral program for youth to learn about responsibility. Through 14 age-specific sessions concentrating on various aspects of manhood, these boys learn important life skills from teachers and mentors about how to become responsible, healthy, and courageous men in today’s society. Upon completion, each participant receives his own passport to underscore the notion that he is on a personal journey of growth.
Tra’Vone admits he has had a transformation because of the program. "I learned how to be a better me,” he says. "The program teaches us important things that we need to know – how to be a man.” At 16, and a sophomore at Benton Harbor High School, Tra’Vone is eager to learn from his older sister and be a role model for his younger sister. But for lessons in being a man—he knows he must learn elsewhere. Program instructor, John Sams, is able to make the courses fun, while having real conversations and hands-on activities.
Tra’Vone is active in sports—he plays football, basketball and baseball for Benton Harbor High School. He is a dedicated student and enjoys chemistry and math. He hopes to play sports on a professional level, but also has his sights set on a career in the culinary arts.
Speaking at this inaugural breakfast was internationally renowned author and education consultant, Principal Baruti Kafele. Principal Kafele has become a celebrated educator and consultant to school systems looking to bridge the Attitude Gap, which he describes as "the gap between those students who have the will to strive for academic excellence and those who do not.” His tenets speak directly to the philosophies taught in Passport to Manhood.
Principal Kafele is the recipient of the National Alliance of Black School Educators Hall of Fame Award, the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence and the prestigious Milken National Educator Award.
This was the first year for both the Passport to Manhood event and the Young Man of the Year recognition.