Some male members of Buffalo's Africa-American community are devoting their time to helping city students. WBFO's Focus on Education reporter Eileen Buckley says they understand why some teens are getting into trouble and failing in school.
"Some of them don't expect their lives to see the expectancy past age 18," said James Stephens, a member of the Buffalo Peacemakers of Western New York. Stephens is also with Back to Basics Ministries. The organizations work to protect students from violence, offering mentoring and ministry.
"They come to school not for education only, but for safety out of the neighborhoods with they hope that they see another hour, another day, another minute," said Stephens. He sat with other Peacemaker members inside the Regal Theater on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. They help escort students on different events to make sure they stay safe. He was joined by Matthew Brown, a senior member of Peacemakers and also works with the Father's Organization. That stands for Father's Armed Together to Help Educate, Restore and Save.
"We try to mentor them, so they can become better kids in life. You know they come up and they have bad things going on with them in their homes and schools, and so we try to mentor them so they can become better kids in life," said Brown.
The Peacemaker members offer stark lifestyles of some of the school children living on the east side. Some they say are even homeless. Others are trying to help support their families.
"How really they're the important force in their own homes. That being a provider at age 18, 17 or 16. They're putting food, they're paying bills, like gas and rent," said Stephens. "When you talk to them about education and it will be that pathway to get out of their circumstance or poverty, then they look at you with a certain apprehension like you really don't know what I'm going through," noted Stephens.
Peacemaker member Larry Chapell is also with MAD DADS. Chapell truly believes in ministry as helping struggling youth. "I would say put God first, over everything, then everything else will come right in, and bringing people together," said Chapell.
But all three men say that too many youth programs have been cut through the years programs, like PAL and Junior Achievement. They also say there are not enough community centers open for inner-city children. From their view they highly recommend restoration of programs and more positive places for youth to gather.