RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — A non-profit organization dedicated to creating “generational wealth and empowerment” for Black males in Riviera Beach turns two.
Young Men of Distinction was founded by a resident unsatisfied with the city's crime stats. His goal: Give Black males age seven to 18 a village he believed they were missing. And the village has grown.
Palm Beach Gardens High School senior Kevin Towns is busy crunching for the ASVAB test. Even with a 4.0 GPA he’s determined to make studying a daily activity.
”It means a lot to me,” Towns said.
The ASVAB is a multi-aptitude test used to determine if one's fit to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. And Young Men of Distinction founder and CEO Jacoby Waters wants to ensure he has the score to get in.
”He's my big brother, a friend and a mentor,” Towns said.
It’s just one component of the enrichment program for children and teens every week to reverse the statistics.
”It's time for a different message,” Waters said. “This program is about solutions and results.”
Waters’ staff meet with parents every week. The program also requires a weekly financial literacy workshop and on weekend's there's a required community service project.
“Creating a village requires getting back to the basics,” Waters said.
There's also a social responsibility. The non-profit's ‘I Matter Challenge’ is part of an affirmation to denounce Black-on-Black crime and police brutality.
“We already have enough against us,” Waters said. “We have law enforcement, the judicial system — Black-on-Black crime, so I think the extinction of the Black man is happening and if we don't wake up we'll be extinct,” he said.
For parent Latasha Mitchell the enrichment programming really works.
”Young Men of Distinction has filled that void and allowed (Kevin) to be able to have more confidence and more ability to just encourage others as they encourage him,” Mitchell said. “It starts you off for where you're going to be in your direction as a young man.”
And Mitchell believes her son will follow in the steps of his father and grandfather and serve in the military thanks to the program.
“He’s going to be serving his county now that he's learned from Young Men of Distinction how to serve his community,” she said.
The new class of Young Men of Distinction starts in August. The inaugural class of Ladies of Distinction begins in July. Both classes are open to Riviera and Boynton Beach youth.
Applications are being accepted for both Young Men of Distinction and the new Ladies of Distinction classes. Your child must have a GPA of 2.0 or higher. There is also an initial interview session that must be attended. And parents and youth must commit to attending weekly workshops, group activities and the end of year gala.
To learn more about Young Men of Distinction, click here.
To learn more about Ladies of Distinction visit, click here.
On Friday, WPTV's Arthur Mondale will be honored by the non-profit with an award for his contributions to changing the narrative surrounding Black youth in South Florida.