Program to support teens with parents in jail has funding, but no participants

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — A program targeted at educating and inspiring kids with incarcerated parents has funding from the City of Hampton, but organizers have spent seven months trying to find eligible teenagers to take part.

In June, the M.A.N. (Men Alleviating Negativity) Foundation earned a $6,500 grant through the city’s Youth Violence Prevention office. Since then, their efforts to reach teenagers on social media and connect with administrators in high schools throughout the city has failed.

Dr. Jaclyn Walker, executive director, says the grant will be used for the B.O.S.S. project: Breaking Obstacles to Seek Success.

The non-profit created the curriculum for the project which includes seminars on self-esteem and conflict management, a field trip to Washington, D.C. to learn about the judicial system and an opportunity for the teenagers to visit their incarcerated parents.

Walker is looking for 20 to 25 kids who are Hampton residents, between the ages of 15 and 18 and have at least one parent in jail.

“We were very excited about receiving [the grant] to be able to make a difference in these children’s lives,” said Dr. Walker. “We have been trying every avenue that we can to be able to get participants, whether it’s social media, whether it’s knocking on doors … to see what we can do to get these children, because we know they are out there.”

Amira Bethea, a M.A.N. board member, knows there’s a need for the program because her son’s father is currently behind bars.

“There’s some days my son is up, some days he’s down,” said Bethea. “Some of these kids don’t know to write their mother or father while they are incarcerated. We are trying to teach them that [and] ways to battle with their emotions on a daily basis.”

The foundation says one in 14 children have a parent locked up. They hope the teens in their program will realize committing crime doesn’t have to be a family tradition.

“We’re looking at the whole child,” said board member Velvet Smith. “We are building them up, and we are actually going to turn that pain into a passion.”

The M.A.N. Foundation will host an interest meeting for the B.O.S.S. project at 10 a.m. on Feb. 25 at the YH Thomas Community Center located at 1300 Thomas Street in Hampton.

Those interested can connect with the non-profit on Facebook, email them at foundationforman@gmail.com or call them at 757-295-8787.