Organization gives young boys hope for a future apart from local gangs

For many young boys, the lack of a positive male role model increases their risk of becoming gang members. Clyde Forbes, founder of the Hopeville Boys Center, has dedicated his life to being a man these boys can turn to and trust.

“These boys have a distrust of law enforcement. They have distrust of anyone who doesn’t look and sound like they do,” he said. “You can get through to them, but you have to invest in them. You have to commit to being there for the long haul. Otherwise, you’re just another face in the system that they can’t trust.”

Forbes is determined not to become another untrustworthy face, which is why for the past four years, he has worked with local youth, mentoring boys and encouraging them to choose a different path than the gangs prevalent in Griffin.

“As far as race, it’s predominantly African-American,” he said. “The parents are so caught up in trying to survive that they don’t invest in their children’s lives. They don’t have the resources other kids do. Often, they don’t even get out of Spalding County. That makes them prime targets for the gangs.”

To combat the negative influences many young boys see not only in their neighborhoods, but also within their families, Forbes spends time with them through school outreach and recreational programs.

“We try to teach them morality and a sense of responsibility, and try to expand their minds and show them a different reality. With the gangs, it’s more about materialism than moral standards,” he said. “Poverty often leads boys to join the gangs in their community – they see someone standing on a street corner selling drugs who has all the things that their culture says is important – and poverty goes back to a lack of education. I work with them to help them succeed in school, and if necessary, will plug them in to tutoring services.”

Also important, Forbes said, is instilling a sense of pride in their accomplishments. To do this, he not only praises individual successes, but also organizes the presentation of awards and even bicycles to instill a greater sense of pride for the boys.

In addition to working directly with at-risk boys, Forbes said it is crucial to reach out to their families, as well.

“We try to target the whole family – I believe in trying to save the whole family,” he said. “Parental education is crucial along with teaching parenting skills. We also patch families into community organizations. My goal is to get everyone in the community involved as much as possible.”

Forbes reward is the pride he sees on a young boy’s face when he reaps the benefit of success through hard work. That is what drives him to tirelessly continue reaching out to families that may have no other source of hope for a better life.

“I’m committed to seeing this through. I want to show them that life has a purpose. That is what appeals to me – giving hope and affecting generations to come. I teach them it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, but where you’re going, ” he said. “Tomorrow can be totally different, and I’m going to fight for these kids.”

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