CHICAGO (WLS) --The Becoming a Man mentorship program will expand to serve more Chicago Public Schools students, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday.
Starting immediately, BAM will grow to serve an additional 1,300 CPS students, bringing the total to more than 4,000 at 65 schools across the city.
The investment is part of Mayor Emanuel's new public safety plan to combat the surge in violence in Chicago.
"Important investments in mentoring that have the power to turn young people's lives around cannot wait for the next budget season," Emanuel said. "I want to thank our partners for stepping up on this important initiative that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of young people from across the city-while marking a better future for all."
BAM counselors provide emotional and social support to help the young men in grades 7-12 navigate the threat of community violence, peer pressure and challenges at home.
"Young men who are in it don't say 'I'm in therapy' or 'I'm getting mental health support.' They say 'I'm in BAM' and there's an incredible positive identification to it," said Michelle Adler Morrison, CEO of Youth Guidance.
University of Chicago's research shows that BAM reduces violent crime arrests among participants by 45-50 percent and increases on-time graduation by 19 percent.
"For young men and young women who have a mentor, they are less likely to be absent from school," said Cmsr. Lisa Morrison Butler, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
At Bowen High School, dozens of young men assemble in BAM circles each week, often sharing deeply personal information. It's part of their process of learning personal responsibility and integrity.
"I didn't like expressing myself as I do now, so I would say BAM has made me open up and connect to all my brothers around here," said Crispin, BAM member.
"I was isolated. I was really on my own when situations happened. I had my mom to talk to, but I wasn't comfortable to tell her the bad things that happened," said Joshua, BAM member.
Each BAM circle is facilitated by a counselor who presents a positive male role model many of the students do not have.
"A majority of them lack male attention. And it's my job to be here to support these young men," said Dr. Corey Brackenridge, BAM facilitator.
The ultimate goal is to expand BAM to serve 7,200 at-risk students in the 20 Chicago neighborhoods most impacted by violence and crime.
Emanuel has called on the private sector to support half of the $36 million initiative. So far, $7 million from private contributions has been raised.