Despite the challenges caused by COVID-19 isolation and remote learning, a unique violence prevention program for teen boys saw 100% of its seniors graduate from high school this month. All 34 of the seniors in the “What’s Up with Manhood” program at World Language High School in Little Village graduated, and 80% have been accepted into college or trade school.
Options for Youth’s “What’s Up with Manhood?” program provides a new approach to reducing the impact of violence in the lives of adolescent boys in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Chicago-based Options for Youth partnered with Promundo, a global leader in working with men and boys for gender justice and violence reduction, to develop the What’s Up with Manhood? curriculum, a gender transformative curriculum that helps young men growing up in one of Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods think critically about “what it means to be a man” in their community.
Since 2017, 107 teenage boys participated in the What’s Up program. All are minority and growing up in in a neighborhood where one-third of the families live in poverty. Fewer than half of the high school students in Little Village graduate each year and only 6% graduate from college. This year, with COVID isolation, participants faced increased obstacles as they neared graduation and many had to keep up with schoolwork on cell phones because they had no computer or internet in their home.