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Project Alpha teaches young men about important choices


By Alex Welch
Contributing Editor 

  An international fraternity visited Shiloh Baptist Church last week to hold a two-day program discussing issues of sexuality with young men of the community. The program called Project Alpha, which is sponsored by the Rho Sigma Lambda of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., is designed to help these young men learn and make better and more informed choices about their behavior as they deal with complex issues on a daily basis.

Members of Shiloh Baptist Church, Project Alpha from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and students in Shiloh Baptist’s mentoring program all convene to discuss topics regarding sexualy activity and becoming a man at Shiloh Baptist Educational Center.

Photo by Alex Welch

  Larry Lyle, the director of educational activities for the fraternity’s Henry County chapter, helped coordinate with Shiloh Baptist’s mentoring program to set up the conference. “We talk about STDs, abstinence and the importance of it as teenagers. We also talk about dropout prevention,” said Lyle. Project Alpha dates back to the 1980s, according to Lyle. The program is designed to help African-American men find out what it takes to “be a man,” providing them with information and positive role models to learn from.

  The program was held from 7-9 p.m. on June 13-14 at the Shiloh Baptist Educational Center. Several speakers from the fraternity and church discussed issues and consequences of sexual activity. There were group discussions, videos and presentations on multiple topics over the course of the two nights.

  The group of young men came from a mentoring group that Rev. McCainly Mace is in charge of at Shiloh Baptist. His group currently has over 30 boys and helps them throughout the school year. “We talk about subjects such as success, respect, how to go to college. We have different subjects for the whole term,” said Mace. While his program normally runs in accordance with the school semester, he said he wanted to keep the boys active this summer. “Instead of just closing down when the schools close down, what we do are certain activities like this,” said Mace.

 Mace and his assistants mentor to boys between ages 7-17. He receives referrals from probation officers, or parents who might have discipline issues with their children. From there, Mace determines a course of action for each boy. “What I do is I analyze them from a set of bullet points. ‘What does this particular student have as far as a problem?’” said Mace. “If they need maybe a stronger type personality, I will assign that person. It’s very important to match them.”

  There were 12 mentors from Mace’s program helping at Project Alpha, but he said he has others who help out when the group goes to local schools. Those interested in mentoring can’t be lukewarm about joining, though, according to Mace. “It’s very important that we get mentors who are not here for a couple of weeks. I have some guys who started with me who are still here,” said Mace. His mentoring program began over four years ago.

  Talking about sex isn’t always a simple task, as Mace acknowledges. He said he was nervous while presenting the program details to the parents at church. Having Project Alpha teach his students, though, was a helpful plan. “They don’t have to worry about the Father with the sweaty hands trying to explain something, they can get it from someone who has done it many times,” said Mace, smiling while talking about being nervous beforehand. “I’m excited about this program. It can’t do anything but help them make better and more informed choices.”

  Mace sees the program as a beneficial experience for the parents. “It helps the parents as well. They can go speak to their young people after this,” said Mace. He said discussing sexual activity is a tough issue for parents, but with Project Alpha teaching about abstinence, violence in a relationship, STDs and more, these topics are already open and ready for further discussion.

  Lyle said Project Alpha has met with other schools and groups around Henry County, and they will continue to work with young men in the area to teach them about these important issues.



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