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Torch Club Builds Up Young Men at Proviso West

February 21, 2014 08:45 AM
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Young men at Proviso West High School are getting more support to set and achieve healthy goals, thanks to the Torch Club.

The Torch Club is a mentoring group that meets during lunch periods and after school one to two times a month and is designed to bring students "out of darkness," said Dr. Sherman Blade, a guidance counselor at Proviso West and a sponsor of the group. He said that the group helps to build up the young men’s social and emotional health and to help them learn how to make good decisions.

"If they knew what the outcomes will be, their decisions might be different," Dr. Blade said. "They can become aware of what could happen."

w-torch-club2-300The Torch Club, which is in its fifth year and is open to all male students at Proviso West, currently has about 300 young men meet one to two times a month to listen to guest speakers. The speakers range from Mr. Elliott Johnson, a trustee on the Rich Township Board and the president and CEO of Heyward & Johnson, Inc. who spoke to the group in September, to former members of gangs who speak on their experiences and how to avoid similar lives. The students also eat a meal together during their lunch periods and talk amongst themselves to build each other up.

There also is a smaller core group of about 20 young men who meet about once a week. These students must maintain a "C" average, have few discipline issues, and have good attendance in their classes.

w-torch-club3-300Among the core group students is Jeremiah Scott, a Proviso West senior who has been a part of the Torch Club since his freshman year. He said that Dr. Blade and the other students in the group have become family.

"It became a brotherhood," said Jeremiah, who plans to go into the aviation field in the Air Force. "The Torch Club is an enlightenment program for males. Not everybody has somebody to keep them on the right path."

Jalan Walker, a Proviso West junior who has been with the Torch Club since his freshman year, also liked the family aspect of the group.

"These are my brothers and we can all talk," said Jalan, who plans to study criminal justice and mortuary science at Western Illinois University. "This group has helped me make smart decisions. It’s taught me how to think of things in different ways."

Mr. Oscar Hawthorne, principal at Proviso West, said that the Torch Club has been a positive force at Proviso West.

"Our hope is to connect all of our students to someone, be it a teacher, a coach, or one of our support staff members, who can be a mentor and positive support," Mr. Hawthorne said. "The Torch mentoring program is just one example of how we’re meeting the needs of young men at Proviso West. We want all of our students to gain the tools necessary to be successful beyond high school and in life."
 
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