Seventy 7th-grade boys from all four St. Joseph middle schools recently participated in a new, eight-week life skills course offered by the YWCA. The program, DECISIONS, matched the boys with mentors from Missouri Western State University Men’s Athletics Department.

Thirty-one Missouri Western athletes from Men’s baseball, cross country and track teams served as mentors. Ellen Kisker, YWCA Prevention Educator, said their youth, energy, work ethic and status in the eyes of middle schoolers put the athletes in a solid position to be effective role models for 7th-grade boys.

Seventh graders stayed paired with the same mentors for the full program and explored common, real-life topics such as girls, bullying and peer pressure that can be difficult and come with consequences for adolescent boys. At the end of the program, they visited the Missouri Western campus for a tour and pizza party.

YWCA DECISIONS is designed to be the other half of YWCA’s outreach to middle school students. The YWCA has offered CHOICES to 7th-grade girls for several years, matching girls with Missouri Western women athletes to address issues facing adolescent girls and to support them toward making good choices.

The YWCA’s mission is to eliminate racism and to empower women. Adolescence is an important stage of development to reinforce the importance of people treating each other respectfully. Along those lines, Kisker said, “We want to raise self-esteem of both girls and boys and show youth that our community cares about them, especially those who might be living in adverse home environments, during what can be a challenging time of life when their own decisions about how to interact with others carry the potential for life-long impact.”

To learn more about DECISIONS, CHOICES, or other programs of the YWCA, call 816-232-4481.