Men Aiming Higher' group provides mentorship for county's male youths
Group mentors county's male youths
For young black men in Prince George's County growing up without a father at home, there is always someone to turn to.
Darryl Barnes, 45, of Upper Marlboro founded Men Aiming Higher Inc., a nonprofit organization that mentors black male youths ages 16 to 29, because he wants to educate the county's youths and give them the tools to become future leaders.
"For me, it was, Here's an opportunity for me to give back the knowledge and wisdom I have to educate these kids,'" said Barnes, the father of a 4- and 6-year-old.
Barnes grew up in Southeast Washington, D.C., and credits the strong role of both his mother and father growing up for helping him achieve success as an adult he now owns an information technology company in Upper Marlboro.
But Barnes said he had always wanted to help provide opportunities to youths who may not have that same support, and after about five years of thinking about a way to do so, he launched Men Aiming Higher in fall 2009.
The organization runs a 20-week program that focuses on health and wellness, mentoring, economic development and education, Barnes said.
"Kids don't want to be talked to. They want to be listed to. We kind of let them lead the discussion. When you let them talk, you get more," Barnes said. "Sometimes you need to just sit back and listen to what they have to say."
Besides Barnes, there are about 40 other men who are mentors and committee members in the organization, he said.
The organization has worked with dozens of Largo Evening High School students and expects to begin working with Possibility Prep Public Charter School in Largo, a school for boys in grades six to eight, in January, the start of the next 20-week session, Barnes said.
Dionte Anderson, 20, of Capitol Heights was among nearly 20 students who met with men from the group from fall 2009 until this spring. He said the experience motivated him to go to college. He graduated from Largo Evening High School in June and attends TESST College of Technology in College Park.
"[Other students] should go listen to what they have to say because they are good motivators," he said.
Men Aiming Higher is funded by donations and by the nonprofit's members, Barnes said. Money is used to pay for field trips to places such as museums and sporting events.
James Fleming, 55, of Forestville, an organization board member said the group grew out of Barnes' vision.
"He wants to see his children have a good life and in turn, have other children have a good life. It's all intertwined," Fleming said. "[The group] really focuses on the needs of young men, the struggles that men have, and really being able to dig down and dig deep to help young men in those areas."