Boyz2Men – Who are they?
Boyz2Men is a high school-based mentorship programme with a mission to provide at-risk young men with skills, mentorship support and confidence they need for future success. It began in 2009 with just three members and has since grown, year by year to encompass large intakes of young men, first at John Gray and later at the Clifton Hunter high school, but now with a vision for extending the programme across the Cayman Islands.
“When we started this programme, it was because we saw these young men who didn’t have father figures in their lives, so initially we wanted to fill that gap by providing strong male role models,” explained Boyz2Men Chairman and School Counsellor, Christopher Murray, “Put simply, we are turning boys into gentlemen”
Before starting Boyz2Men, Mr. Murray was a counsellor at Her Majesty’s Prison, Northward. “I saw 13, 14 and 15 year old boys there asking for a second chance in life,” he recalled, “But at that stage I could not help them, so felt I needed to go to the high schools and at George Hicks school I met some of the boys, and I just connected.”
Mr. Murray got his first breakthrough with Seaford Russell, who today is a director of the programme, but in those days, Mr. Murray said, trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went. “You would hear him coming like a tsunami, I would jump up and lock the door and say ‘not today bobo,’ but he kept holding onto that door until I had to let him in.”
Mr. Murray decided that, if he was that desperate maybe if he took him with him on a fishing trip on a Saturday, he would be able to help. Unexpectedly, that fishing trip sent help to Mr. Murray too, giving one of the keys he needed to unlock Boyz2Men’s incredible success story. “He shared with me what he would like to be called so I said to the teachers, ‘let’s change the narrative of what we are calling him.’”.
Mr. Murray caught the vision of what he wanted to do, and understood by changing the boys’ self-image, you might be able to change their lives. Pretty soon, teachers and parents saw really big, positive changes in the attitudes of all the boys who joined. Not only that, but more and more boys wanted to join after seeing the positive changes in the lives of their classmates. Soon they had added their signature black tie, which the young men wear with pride.
One of the highlights of each cohort is when the boys take their mothers on an evening of fine dining at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. There, each of them is encouraged to present their mothers with a single red rose, and tell them how special they are, and how much they love and appreciate them. By showing their mothers consideration and respect, the young gentlemen will possess a good foundation for their future girlfriends and wives, and mothers of their own children, Mr. Murray believes.
Now many more schools apart from Clifton Hunter and John Gray want to join the program, including the Lighthouse School, and the Layman E. Scott High School on Cayman Brac, and Cornerstone, too. but of course, they will need plenty more funds. Some are for a new Coaster Bus, so that as the programme expands, Boyz2men will be able to offer more outings and excursions. One of those will be for a planned football match with the boys’ fathers.
After hearing Boyz2men’s incredible story of success, Leadership Cayman, the Chamber’s elite leadership programme, chose Boyz2men as the beneficiary of its giving-back-to-the-community class project. They decided to put all they had learned into action by locking themselves into the Chamber’s conference room until they had reached their fundraising target of $25,000 dollars for the programme. Throughout the day, lots of companies, as well as individuals (including Cayman Islands Premier the Hon. Wayne Panton and Ministers Kenneth Bryan and Andre Ebanks), stepped up to the plate to make sure that Boyz2Men has the funds it needs to continue to change boys into gentlemen, thereby making a huge, positive change in the social fabric of the Cayman Islands.