The Sons of Abraham Mentor Program is in its third year of providing one-to-one mentoring, teaching and extracurricular activities to promote the educational, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical development of young men between the ages of 7 and 17. In addition to founding the program, Joe Gamble has served in the capacity of director of the Sons of Abraham Mentor Program for three years on a volunteer basis. Currently, the program services 85 young men who are identified as at risk of dropping out of school, juvenile delinquency, and/or low academic achievement.
Gamble conceptualized and planned the program from his home and presented it to the Greater Bethany Economic Development Corporation (GBEDC) for implementation. It was recognized to be a well-developed plan and GBEDC granted him use of the facility for future mentor training and bi-monthly mentee and mentor activities. Gamble’s plan for the program included by-laws, an application process, DMV and Department of Justice screenings, a mentor interview process, a monthly evaluation process for mentees, and a mentor/mentee pairing process.
Tackling the task of establishing a mentor program with fervor, Gamble enlisted other volunteers with like passion to effectively implement his plan. He recruited several men from Greater Bethany Community Church and community to form a volunteer and parent support team called “The Booster Club.” This group works to ensure that the boys are first matched one-to-one with a mentor and then exposed to activities that are not ordinarily available in their neighborhoods.
Gamble also makes available to all participants and interested parties an annual calendar of structured, yet fun, activities for the young men in the program. The Sons of Abraham Mentor Program has exposed more than 150 boys to Broadway musicals such as “Show Boat,” sponsored by the Shubert Theater, and “Bring-N-Da Noise, Bring-N-Da Funk,” sponsored by Claudette and Smokey Robinson. Gamble seeks to offer activities that stimulate a change in attitude and direction for boys who are considered at risk of dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, low self-esteem, gang involvement, and poor grades. These activities are coupled with a sound curriculum developed by Dr. Sheldon Nix, designed to guide a boy from “boyhood” to “authentic manhood.”
With Gamble’s assistance, the Sons of Abraham Mentoring Program sponsors a variety of educational and enjoyable activities. Twenty-five mentors, 60 mentees, and 15 members of the Los Angeles Police Departments Explorers served as hosts for the grand opening of the “Expressions in Stone” Art Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. They volunteers were given a tour of the facility and the boys discussed the sculptures with the curator of the gallery. The program sponsored a four-day community carnival attended by 4,000 people of African-American and Hispanic descent. Gamble and 15 of the Booster Club members walked door to door to give away tickets to community residents and gang members, and everyone participated in the day’s events without hostility.
A partnership was formed by Gamble with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Sparks, Los Angeles Lakers, and the San Diego Chargers in order to expose at-risk youth to exciting career options and additional positive role models that will motivate them to be productive, as well as provide a way for them to experience an environment different from their own.
Under Gamble’s leadership, the Booster Club, mentors and community residents operate Project Refugee, an after-school tutoring program. Gamble has enlisted the help of the Black Engineers Society of University of Southern California to serve as tutors. The tutorial program has serviced 30 students with a community volunteer base of 15 for the months of April through December of 1998.
Not only has he mobilized volunteers to assist in rebuilding and reconstructing the minds of at-risk youth, his efforts also includes networking with other community-based organizations in efforts to establish beneficial collaborations. For example, he inspired a collaborative effort between the Greater Bethany Economic Development Corporation Sons of Abraham Mentor Program and the California Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Churches to provide Rites of Passage quarterly camps and ongoing mentoring to youth in approximately 100 United Methodist Churches. This partnership will encourage more men to serve as mentors to the boys in South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods and provide men to serve as camp counselors at Rites of Passage camps.