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Conference aimed at fostering skills of young men

Young men growing up in Buffalo face a variety of challenges, and all too many don’t have anyone to help navigate the obstacles.

Even basic skills such as dressing well, drafting resumes and applying for jobs can be foreign territory.

Now, the World of Girls and Boys Empowerment Mentorship Co. wants to offer some support.

Next month it will host a conference for young men of all ethnicities to help them develop skills that will empower them to be better citizens, and community leaders.

“Our goal is to enrich their character,” said Terrie Ann Williams Coplin, founder and owner of the organization.

The conference comes at a time that issues facing young men, particularly those of color, have come to the front of the national conscience. Any litany of statistics paints a dire outlook for young men growing up in urban areas.

Those include lower academic performance and graduation rates, coupled with a disproportionate involvement in crime.

Several local community groups are responding to those issues with new support systems, hoping to empower young men and offer them the support they need before they fall off track.

Earlier this year, the organization Helping Families and Children of America hosted a similar conference where young men participated in workshops on culture and education. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown also kicked off the city’s participation the national My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which aims to equip young men with resources to support them from the time they are born until they enter the workforce.

And several community groups want to expand their character education and life skills programs into the Buffalo Public Schools to reach more young people.

At the upcoming conference, participants will spend the weekend attending seminars on topics such as fitness, political awareness, social etiquette and financial management.

“There are more of these events popping up because of the great need for gathering, mentoring and training for young men, especially young men of color,” said Buffalo Councilman Darius Pridgen. “I know that young people will benefit from being taught positive life skills.

The conference will include empowerment speakers and the young men will wear shirts and ties during the dinner hour.

The goal is to equip them with confidence and skills they can tap into when faced with issues in their communities and lives.

“There are a lot of issues going on, horrible issues going on in our own community and our global society,” said Coplin, a Buffalo Public Schools counselor. “This is more of a preventative conference,” she added.

The conference will be Jan. 16 and 17 at the Adams Mark Hotel and Events Center. Organizers expect about 200 people to attend, and have already received interest from as far away as Canada and Rochester.

Registration for the conference, which includes an overnight stay at the hotel, is $65. Organizers are working with community partners to offer scholarships to young men who cannot afford the cost.

Families and churches can also get discounted rates for sending a group. They are also looking for additional mentors and chaperones.

For more information or to register, call 716-208-4409.