AKRON, OH (WOIO) - Dreams Academy in Akron is graduating the latest class of boys from its leadership program this Saturday.
Founder Brandon Scarborough wanted to change the trajectory of boys who often don't have positive male models at home. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 34 percent of Ohio children are being raised by a single parent. Often, it's mom doing the work.
"We try and talk about things that go lacking sometimes because of the breakdown of the family structure," Scarborough said. "A lot of my young men- their fathers are absent."
The eight-week course focuses on etiquette, financial literacy, problem solving and career readiness. Tasks like learning how to tie a tie, write a resume and give a strong handshake are practiced.
"If it wasn't for this program, I would have never thought of dressing like this or looked into how to tie a tie," said Jordan Pritchard-Cewell, one of the students. "My dad he doesn't live with me so there wasn't going to be someone to help me."
Pritchard-Cewell said knowing that someone cares about the way he looks and acts feels good.
"I wasn't making too good decisions in the house, but this program really helped me out. It makes me feel like I am actually something to these people. I am more than just someone that they see every Monday," Pritchard-Cewell said.
Scarborough is assisted by his "Dreams Team" a network of men in the community who are committed to working with the boys.
"They don't care how much you know, they want to know who much you care," Scarborough said of the boys enrolled in the academy. "When you show these kids you care, you got them in the palm of your hand."
A highlight of the summer course was learning the ins and outs of politics and law. Akron's mayor met with the kids for a candid discussion about life. The boys also attended a city council meeting where there was a breakthrough moment.
"One of our young men wanted to speak on some of the ills going on his community and his neighborhood," Scarborough said. "So, to have one of my young men go to the podium was a highlight for me."
Nick Gates is about to enter his freshman year of high school. He said he's benefited from being around other strong men.
"I want to be successful with a good job and hopefully in college with a scholarship," Gates said. "We're learning about money and how to save. We're learning about how to respect woman and respect any adult."
Dreams Academy's gala is Saturday, August 12. It's a celebration of the boys who've gone through the academy and a fundraiser to continue doing the important work. The community is invited to meet the boys and see what they've learned. Tickets range in price from $35 to $50.
The gala starts at 4 p.m. at the Akron Urban League at 440 Vernon Odom Boulevard. Hubb's Groove is the musical entertainment. Motivational speaker and author Ben Raymond is the keynote guest. He's also the son-in-law of comedian and TV host Steve Harvey.
"I don't care if you don't have kids. I don't care if you don't know none of the kids," Scarborough said. "Come out and show your support (and) put your arms around them."