The Rock is a unique approach to mentoring, in which fathers from the community of Shawnee train and counsel at-risk boys in sixth through twelfth grade. The mentors help the young men develop a vision for a successful future, work with them to gain the tools necessary to achieve their goals, and foster a desire to contribute their talents, ideas, and energy into prospering the community at large.
The Rock began approximately 20 years ago as an outreach to kids “cruisin’ the Poo” (kids driving up and down Kickapoo Street, for those of you who are too young to remember - haha). During the summer, hundreds of kids of all ages come to The Rock, located at 3831 N. Kickapoo on Living Word Church’s campus, to hang out, eat, play games, and have good, safe fun. All for FREE! For years, we have served the students food and drinks out of an old diner, which Living Word Church purchased in 1997 (originally Stevie D’s Diner from Beard and Highland). Sadly, we have outgrown the cute, little diner, and it has been replaced with a 600 sq. ft. building, which will be making its debut in the summer of 2018: The Snack Shack!
In 2010, our staff began to recognize a greater need in the students we were serving. Most did not have a father in the home, and many could not clearly define, or exhibit, the core values taught in families: excellent work ethics, the value for obtaining a good education, proper etiquette, and priceless conversations enjoyed when sitting around the supper table together as a family. The Rock team reassessed our vision and decided some major additions would be necessary in order to adequately be of service to our community. Hence, phase one of The Rock, in its present format, began in 2013.
Research shows that at risk youth increase potential for resilience when they have at least one caring adult to mentor them (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. 2012). Therefore, every year, The Rock partners with businessmen, leaders, and teachers from the community to mentor at risk boys 12 to 18 years of age. The young men are carefully partnered with a mentor, who meet with them on Wednesdays after school from 3:30-8:30. While at The Rock facility, the mentors help the youths set individual monthly goals with reward incentives, which might include anything from making their bed every morning, completing their homework on a daily basis, or getting along with their parents. Each month we have an awards ceremony recognizing students who have successfully met their individual goals. The young men receive tutoring for homework, music lessons, basic carpentry skills, auto maintenance, basic home repairs, and instruction in healthy communication skills. Once these skills are achieved second, third, and fourth year students give back to the community by raking leaves for widows, carrying groceries for the elderly, cleaning trash up in the parks, etc. and providing leadership for new members. One of the most valuable weekly events, however, is suppertime. The boys sit with their mentors and have guided “Table Talk” around the dinner table as a nutritious, delicious meal is shared and the opportunity to reinforce the etiquette of polite conversation and table manners is provided.
One distinct feature of The Rock is that it has the stability and longevity of a 20-year history, with the vision, safety, and professionalism of a 20-year strategic plan. The plan was developed by The Rock’s board of advisors five years ago and is assessed annually utilizing a SWOT analysis. The analysis is used to perform a self-assessment that takes into account the perceptions, attitudes, and opinions of the students, mentors, and key stakeholders. The gathered data helps the advisors determine The Rock’s areas of focus, and the advisors are able to write strategic objectives that address The Rock’s challenges and advantages.
The Rock’s directors, Clif and April Briscoe, are committed to establishing a model for area churches in affecting the youth of our city. After four successful years of growth in The Rock boys, as well as dramatic life-changes within entire families, we are excited to implement phase two of the strategic plan, which includes mentoring girls of the same age group: The Rock-ettes!
In addition, The Rock is collaborating with Blue Zones’ vision to teach young people how to make healthy food choices. Because many of our students are “at risk”, proper nutrition is always a concern. Therefore, we are excited about the prospects for this year’s additions to The Rock program. We will be offering cooking lessons this fall as well as raised-bed gardening in the spring in conjunction with Blue Zone’s initiative to improve health.
If you are interested in participating as either a mentor or a mentee, applications are now being accepted through Sept. 1st for the 2017-2018 school year. You may complete the application process online at www.livingwordshawnee.org/ministries/the-rock/apply. You may also make a tax deductible, charitable donation to The Rock at www.livingwordshawnee.org/give as well.