Mentoring program helps at-risk youth amid coronavirus outbreak

The young men who participate in the Next Level Boys Academy diversion program look forward to their weekly Saturday sessions.

Program director Gary Davis mentors at-risk juveniles and young adults.   

"I decided to put a program in place that targets that good group of young men who often get caught in bad decisions," Davis told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes. "The way it happens they get into a situation, they have no criminal history, instead of the court sending them to prison for 10 to 20 years they send them to us."

During the meetings, participants learn life skills, conflict resolution, and anger management.  

With COVID-19 upending their lives, keeping the lines of communication open is important now more than ever. 

"I knew these young men could not go without having some type of interaction or engagement so I created a virtual class," Davis said. "In this virtual class, we are able to do everything we typically do on Saturdays. We're just not meeting in one place."                             

He says the virtual meetings have been well received with mentees and their family members participating via cellphone or computer.

"When the young men are coming on, the parents are coming on- just being that support system for them," he said.

Davis remains a steadying presence for these groups in these uncertain times, and they encourage him. 

"They were reaching out when they knew that the quarantine was in place, like 'How are we going to get to class? How are we going to get to you?' So they were the ones who were very supportive of putting the Zoom in place or the live stream in place."                                   

Davis says the video conferencing has been so successful, he plans to use it as a tool to expand his program so he can help more young people.