Wednesday, February 28, 2024

BIG IDEA: Shawn Mahone

Founder, Young Men and Women for Change
Why You Should Know Him: Creator of a program aimed at changing the behavior of youths making unhealthy choices.

Shawn Mahone didn’t have an easy upbringing. 

His mother had him at the age of 14 and he grew up during a period of increased drug usage in his neighborhood. As Shawn grew up, it seemed like there were two options: selling drugs or using them. Thanks to the love and support of his mother and grandmother, and a love of the game of basketball, Mahone didn’t opt for either route and became a successful father and founder of Young Men and Women for Change. 

Mahone noticed Toledo Public Schools doling out an increasing number of suspensions over the years due to youths acting out. “I saw there was a pattern of no accountability,” he said. “I knew that parents’ hands were tied. For me, it was about stepping out on faith and being able to bring what I knew would work in Toledo.”

Young Men and Women for Change is a behavior modification bootcamp – “bootcamp” is an acronym for how the program works. 

B – Behavior
O – Obedience
O – Observational
T – Training
C – Community
A – Adolescent
M – Modification
P – Program

“We use the word ‘bootcamp’ as an attention-getter,” Mahone said. “A lot of people think this is a ‘scared straight’ program, but it’s not. Our goal is to modify the behaviors of our youths to make better choices.”

The program accepts youths from ages 5-17 who are making unhealthy choices, being defiant, rude, stealing, cheating and getting in trouble at school. 

“We take the youths, we break them down and build them up,” Mahone explained. “We strip them of anything that’s negative and we build them up by putting positive reinforcements in their lives to help them become productive leaders.”

Mahone has been bettering the youth of Toledo for 15 and a half years, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. R“All this time, we’ve been showing success in modifying behaviors and getting kids on the right path,” he said. “This is a program that has worked in Toledo and it can be marketed, and adopted, across the country.”


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