Task force learns about programs for males


Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.

Black males in Gainesville, from elementary school-aged boys to young men in their early 20s, are taking advantage of two programs designed to help them succeed in life.

And leaders of the two programs — Reichert House Youth Academy for boys and the Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction for young men ages 18-24 — talked about the programs at the monthly meeting of the Black on Black Crime Task Force held last Wednesday at the Kirby Smith Center. More than 75 people attended the meeting.

The meeting also featured a panel of eight young men, four from each program, who answered questions from a moderator and the audience on subjects ranging from drug and alcohol abuse among their peers to why there are a disproportionate percentage of black men in prison.

John Alexander, executive director of the Reichert House, said the program has several different academies. He said the business academy partners with the Students in Free Enterprise, or SITE, program at the University of Florida.

"This group comes out and teaches business concepts to the kids, such as resume writing, work ethics, portfolio building and things of that nature," said Alexander.

He also said the culinary academy partners with Sweet Dreams Eastside Ice Cream at 1040 E. University Ave. and Southern Charm Kitchen at 1714 SE Hawthorne Road, where students from the program will intern at both businesses.

He also said the communications academy will be producing a monthly 30-minute television show that will focus on youth issues. "We have a studio at the Reichert House that should be up and running in the next 60 days," Alexander said.

He also said the Reichert House gives back to the community through its My Block Project and Student Athletes Advocating for Literacy and Education, or SAALE, programs.

My Block is designed to empower Reichert House students and their families with a sense of neighborhood pride and ownership and SAALE takes local high school athletes who attend the Reichert House to elementary schools to talk to students about the importance of literacy and education.

Alexander also said the Reichert House will be breaking ground on a new building that will house elementary school students. Currently, there are 23 fifth-graders and one fourth-grader in the program.

"We are going to be going lower, trying to reach them at a much younger age, so by the time they get in the sixth or eighth grades, they will already be focusing on college," Alexander said.

Sharla Head-Jones, a specialist working with B.O.L.D., talked about the program with coordinators Antravious Bedford and Julius McCoy, both of whom are Reichert House graduates. Caleb Young is also a part of the group's leadership team.

Head-Jones said the program was a "twinkle in" Bedford's eye in summer 2010 when he went to Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones with the idea.

Bedford said the program has mental health, drug treatment, medical and job placement components. Bedford also said the leadership team works hands-on with the young men daily and are there for them no matter the need.

"We are passionate about this and the reason we are passionate about this is that we are tired of seeing these same guys get arrested," Bedford said.

The program meets at 6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays in the old Gainesville Housing Authority office building in the NW 5th Avenue neighborhood. Currently, there are about 30 men in the program.

Head-Jones said the young men in the program all join because they want to turn their lives around. She said most of the young men in the program never graduated from high school, are unemployed or underemployed (don't earn a living wage) and have criminal records. She said they come to the program looking for assistance, guidance and help getting on the right track.

For more information on B.O.L.D., call 352-334-2441 and for the Reichert House, call 352-334-2320.

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