Becoming a Man is a nonprofit program that brings at-risk teen males together and encourages them to see that they are more alike than different, despite being in rival gangs. It also aims to show group participants that they don’t have to be hard and tough all the time. Other kids feel the same fears and emotions as they do. This kind of open communication among youth who usually can’t show any kind of softness or weakness can go a long way toward tearing down defenses and encouraging communication.

In fact, a recent article in the Huffington Post tells about a recent meeting in which members of rival gangs sat face to face to discuss the murder of one group’s member at the hands of the other group. Becoming a Man, or BAM, is able to bring the boys together in an experience like this in order to talk about ways to compromise, get along and find peace. That’s a huge step for these young men, and it may make a bigger difference than most realize.

The program is overseen by a Chicago nonprofit organization called Youth Guidance, and it teaches decision-making skills and other life skills they may not receive in their home environments. Through weekly meetings, the group’s 2000 participants across Chicago have demonstrated a 50 percent drop in violent crime arrests over two years when compared to a control group. That’s real progress. The benefits for the young men involved go far beyond the numbers.