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HOPE Lives Here: A Leadership Program for At-Risk Boys in Fort Worth

By S. Mathur

The statistics are grim. Kelly Fuhrman, Director of Development at HOPE Farm, a Christian leadership development program for at-risk boys lays them out plainly: "In studies conducted about children (in any economic environment) who grow up without fathers in the home, we have learned that there are real consequences for the children (both male and female). These studies show that fatherless children are 80.3% more likely to be involved in anti-social behavior, 76.4% more likely to take part in crime, and 69.1% more likely to take drugs. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes, and 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. Coincidence? We do not believe so."

Regardless of the economic situation of a household, in the absence of the father young boys are more likely to engage in negative behaviors that have many harmful consequences for themselves, their families and for the community as a whole. Viewing the situation as a crisis, the founders at HOPE Farm believe that the solution is to directly engage fatherless boys at an age when they are searching for a male role model. Fuhrman cites Co-founder and Executive Director, Gary Randle, who "argues that as a society, we will pay one way or another--either now to prepare these boys for a bright future, or later, to keep them locked away so that they do not negatively impact our future. Either way, we pay."

HOPE Farm's leadership development program for inner-city boys aims to guide them to become "Christ-centered men of integrity." These are based on the idea that there is a need for male leadership and guidance and well as the nurturing provided by mothers and grandmothers.

An initial meeting with the family determines whether the mother or female care giver, most often the grandmother, is willing to work with the HOPE Farm model:
*The spirit through character building, Bible study, & prayer
*The mind through reading, language, computers, math, music, and critical thinking
*The body through training and conditioning, nutritious meals & organized athletic activities

After-school and summer programs include tutoring and homework help, physical Ed, Bible study, social skills training including etiquette and leadership skills, music, daily meals and field trips. Music training and performance through the Boys' Choir and Piano Program, and STEM projects that encourage budding scientists, allow the boys to develop their skills and interests.

There are many opportunities for volunteers, Fuhrman says, "helping with programming (academic/tutoring, recreation, music, Bible, kitchen)...campus upkeep (gardening, painting, planting, repair, remodel),...special events (Open House, Fall Festival, Summer Camp), mentoring, professional motivational speakers for the boys and the mothers, and group work projects." Donations are welcome and go towards meeting educational costs, programs, and meals for the boys as well as programs for the mothers/caretakers.

Community support takes many forms : funding from individuals and organizations, participation in the Fall Festival and Spring Basketball C.L.I.N.I.C., affirmation from local officials, and partnerships with the Fort Worth Symphony and the Van Cliburn foundation. And there is a long waiting list of mothers who want their sons to join the program.

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