Youths in Highland Park gather outside school board meeting where dozens of their teachers were laid off. Photo: Diane Bukowski/2004


Staff writer for Voice of Detroit

(see bio on VOD About Page)

July 7, 2017

Cortez Davis El

With a lack of men to guide the younger generation down the path to success, the Michigan Department of Corrections allows the men in their institutions to volunteer their time and share their experiences in life with the hopes of steering the young and impressionable in a direction that will not lead to prison.

One facility that allows prisoners to give back to the community by mentoring young people is The Thumb Correctional Facility, located in Lapeer County. The administrators have created what is called “The G.O.A.L.S.” Program. This means “Guiding Our Adolescents to Live Successfully. ”

The men that are allowed to participate in this program are vetted thoroughly. They are dedicated and committed to helping the children that come to the facility monthly. Their dedications and commitments are reflected in the transformations that they’ve made in their own lives. Being a member of this program is very fulfilling and rewarding for both the prisoners that volunteer and the children that attend.

The men get the opportunity to face themselves and deal with issues that led them astray early in life, while attempting to get the young men that they are mentoring to experience the worse things in life without actually living them. The young men that come into the facility for the program are sometimes defensive, fearful, and or broken. However, when they leave, they have a different outlook on life.

They realize their own potential and develop a real sense of who they are and who they will become if they give themselves a chance. Many of the young men that come into the facility for the program come from broken homes, dysfunctional families, and or crime-infested environments that have shaped their minds into something that is a vision of illusions. The conditions that they are facing daily have all but shattered their ability to see beyond the norms of what life has shown them thus far.

The members of the G.O.A.L.S. Program came from the same walks of life and are able not just to relate to them, but they are able to understand them in ways that the average person that has never been where they are, could.

Having someone to talk to that does not judge you, but see you for who you are now and who you can become later in life makes a real difference when dealing with someone who feels abandoned and believes that they do not have anyone that truly cares about their wellbeing. For most of these children, just knowing that they can vent to someone that has lived the same horrors that they are now living and will receive advice on how to overcome the adversities are steps to recovery.

When dealing with an addict, who is best to advise them on how to stay sober than someone who has walked that path? That is the same with dealing with children that are at risk. Putting them with someone that has been down the road that they are on, is the best way to show them what’s to be expected if they continue down that path.

The G.O.A.L.S. Mentors do not talk at the children. They do not talk down to them. They simply engage them in meaningful conversations by opening up and sharing the worst parts of their own lives and allowing  the children to be comfortable enough to embrace the lessons that are shared.

Young bull elephant on the wild, chasing rhinoceros.

In the 1960’s, a study was done using elephants.* All of the adult male elephants were taken out of the wild leaving nothing but the adult female elephants and their young. During that time, the young male elephants went into what is known as musth.

This is equivalent to puberty in the human male. The young male elephants without the guidance of the male adults began terrorizing the wild. They began killing rhinos and other animals simply because they could and because there were no adult males to teach them better.

Once those conducting the study saw the chaos that the young male elephants were causing, they brought the adult male elephants back to the wild. The bulls took control and the young that went into musth early fell back in line immediately.


Although there is not a study being conducted on the human male, the evidence is the same. With the absence of Men in the communities, the young males are going into puberty much too early without the knowledge of how to deal with the changes. This, coupled with environmental problems, peer pressure, broken homes and other influences is what causes children to act out.

Return the men to the communities and watch the growth of our children. Every child needs a positive male in their lives and the men in the G.O.A.L.S. Program provide that positive reinforcement to the children they encounter every month. If you know a child that is at risk and could benefit from being a part of something designed to help them grow into who they will become if they give themselves a real chance. Contact the Thumb Correctional Facility and inquire about the G.O.A.L.S. Program. The life that you save could be that of someone you love, or even your own.

Thumb Correctional Facility (810) 667-2045; ask about G.O.A.L.S. Program


Related VOD articles, including several by Cortez Davis-El:

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