BAM® – Becoming A Man
Helping Boys Become Men
At 17, Phillip* has lost many of the most important people in his life including his mother, grandmother, uncle and niece. His older sister was beaten to death. His father is in prison. Despite his hardships, Phillip is a bright student and promising athlete. His many family tragedies, however, have weighed on him greatly and at times resulted in distress, depression and failing grades.
The Becoming A Man® (BAM®) program changed the trajectory of Phillip’s life. Core values such as self-determination have helped him be more self-aware and verbal about his feelings. Through weekly group sessions and the support of a trauma-informed BAM counselor, Phillip has learned to calmly deal with difficult emotions, stay focused on school and has even earned a basketball scholarship.
With a caring counselor to guide him, Phillip improved his GPA and created a solid action plan for his future. He stated that his goal is to get out of the “neighborhood routine” and have a better life. He is now a student at Chicago State University.
No matter what the circumstance or challenge, we never give up on our kids. BAM offers the support that young men like Phillip need to commit to education and achieve goals that lead to success in adulthood.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
Today’s youth face many obstacles. Community violence and other stressors create at-risk environments where making positive life choices can feel impossible. It’s easy for young men, particularly from disadvantaged communities, to become angry and afraid. It’s easy for them to follow negative influences that lead to serious trouble. It’s easy for them to drop out of school.
In 2001, the Becoming A Man (BAM) program was launched in Chicago to help young men navigate difficult circumstances that threaten their future. Program founder Anthony Ramirez-Di Vittorio created a safe space for young men at Clemente High School to openly express themselves, receive support and develop the social and emotional skills necessary to succeed. Now in its 19th year, the BAM program serves more than 8,000 youth in 140 schools.
Read about our BAM Advisory Council.
BAM launched in Boston in 2017 and in 2019, expanded to Los Angeles County and King County Washington.
Chicago Crime Lab Study Confirms BAM’s Impact
Among minority males ages 15-24, homicide claims more lives than the next nine leading causes of death combined. There is a growing body of research that suggests that impulse control, future orientation and an understanding of proper conflict resolution can help deter crime involvement or ensure scholastic success.
In June 2016, researchers from the University of Chicago Crime Lab released new findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating the impact of BAM during the 2013-15 academic years. Findings show that BAM reduced violent crime arrests by 50 percent, reduced total arrests by 35 percent, and improved school engagement for male Chicago Public Schools students. In a long-term follow-up to the Crime Lab’s first study of BAM during the 2009-10 academic year, the researchers found that BAM increased on-time high school graduation rates by 19 percent.
The Crime Lab estimates that BAM’s benefits far outweigh the program costs, with up to $30 in societal gains for every $1 invested in the program, from realized reductions in crime alone. Crime Lab researchers believe the economic returns of BAM may ultimately be even higher because people with a high school diploma often have higher earning potential than those who drop out.
The randomized controlled trial design of the Crime Lab studies enables researchers to draw causal conclusions about the effects of BAM, and so attribute changes in youth outcomes to participation in BAM. Researchers randomly assigned 2,064 male 9th and 10th graders to BAM study groups in nine Chicago public high schools during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. Youth randomly assigned to the control group received any other available school and community services and supports.
The latest results are consistent with the first University of Chicago Crime Lab RCT—carried out during the 2009-2010 academic year—that showed that participation in BAM reduced violent crime arrests by 44% and 36% for other (non-violent, non-property, non-drug) crimes. The original one-year RCT involved 2,740 eligible young male students grades 7-10 within 18 public schools on the south and west sides of Chicago. All youth were given equal access to needed in-school supports.
The results of both studies offer a strong evidence base for the effectiveness of the BAM curriculum and reveal that the program fills an important need by developing essential, non-academic skills in young men most susceptible for poor life outcomes. Details are also available as a working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Through mentoring, role-playing and group exercises, BAM students practice impulse control and emotional self-regulation. They raise their aspirations for the future and develop a sense of personal responsibility. BAM fosters positive development in young men by emphasizing Six Core Values:
Integrity: My values equal my actions. I am a man of my word.
Accountability: I am responsible for the consequences of my actions whether intended or unintended. I take ownership for what I do and avoid projecting blame.
Positive Anger-Expression: I learn that anger is a normal emotion that needs to be expressed. How I express my anger is a choice, whether as a savage or as a warrior.
Self-Determination: I pursue my goals in the face of adversity. I learn to conquer self-defeating thoughts and overcome obstacles.
Respect for Womanhood: I learn how my words and actions devalue women, including those I love. I am more mindful and respectful in how I interact with women. I strive to be a self-liberator and not an oppressor.
Visionary Goal-Setting: I create a vision for myself, for who I am, and how I want to be seen in the world. I create a vision that is focused on making my community and the world a better place. I set goals based on my vision and make responsible choices that help me achieve those goals.
Memorable Moment – “I remember that at Larry Hawkins Chicago International Charter School, my seventh grade students were not very excited about having to give up a gym period for BAM. At the end of the school year the entire class told me BAM has changed the lives. They wished that they could have BAM at least twice a week. One of the most disruptive students told me how BAM helped him deal with family issues and a new outlook on school and his potential.”
Best Part of the Day & Inspiration – “The best part of my day is knowing each day is going to be different and knowing Youth Guidance BAM program is making positive changes. Words can not describe the feeling I get from watching these students grow to the men they are suppose to be. BAM changes the channel in their heads to a more constructive life; filled with possibilities. What inspires me is knowing our children have a chance to demonstrate their greatness.”
Youth Guidance serves where the need is greatest, operating in areas plagued by high crime, unemployment and poverty. With your help, we can provide more school-based counseling services to youth in these communities.
Every gift has the power to change a life.