Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach

by Madeline Moore

Cornell Gilkey Sr. has participated in youth activities with the city of Oakland since he was sixteen. He is currently employed as Head Custodian at the Ascend School. In 2004 he and his wife, Kathy, aware that too many young boys at these schools were running wild, discussed ways to take action with the situation. With his own funds, Mr. Gilkey hired a few young men as "junior janitors," allowing him to interact with them informally during his workday, just to talk, to try to connect. Mr.Gilkey saw them as without discipline, direction, or hope. These were youngsters ill-prepared for the game of life, destined to fail.

Students and teachers at Boys 2 Men collaborate for another successful year. Photo by Sheila D’Amico,

'In 2005 the Gilkeys took it upon themselves to open Boys 2 Men Youth Outreach (B2M) at 5319 Fairfax Ave. They brought along three experienced tutors/mentors and created this after-school program. They are assisted by interested volunteers in varied walks of life as well as guest speakers. Parental permission is required and participation as their time allows. Peer volunteers from the Jack & Jill organization come once a month to interrelate and compare notes with their counterparts in B2M. The Reverends Wilson and Brush lead Bible study twice a week. Students are picked up from their schools, served a substantial late lunch, and delivered to their homes at the end of the session.'

'B2M occupies an airy, expansive space that provides young men, and recently girls, ages five to 15, a safe place to air their grievances. But the focus is mainly on education, family values, discipline, personal responsibility and, particularly important, conflict resolution. B2M also teaches basic economics and computer skills; the staff helps them with homework. At present, B2M serves approximately thirty children. To minimize distraction, boys and girls are separated for most of the period except on Fridays, when they get together for rap sessions, giving them practice in the much needed experience of learning how to behave with the opposite sex.

'As part of their lessons in serving the community, these young people bag up food from the Alameda County Community Food Bank and distribute it in the community to those signed up for this program.

'On the lighter side, the students stage performances:'dramas, karaoke, dance routines, and singing in groups or solo. Up the street from them is Flux53, a performance venue in the former Egypt Theater, which has hosted B2M members on several occasions. Students at B2M have absorbed enough computer savvy to have staged and performed a spot on YouTube. They have a Facebook page. B2M is a well-rounded organization that covers all of the aspects of a constructive and successful adulthood for these motivated young people. And the students enjoy it.

'Our community understands the need for programs such as B2M to show youth positive options in their lives. At present, B2M has no outside funding, and with the current climate of cutbacks, little chance of getting aid soon. The Gilkeys will gratefully welcome monetary assistance to help keep them afloat. They invite you to visit their Web site, and their Boys 2 Men youth outreach Facebook page.'