Young Men in Transition helps mentor, guide at-risk males

By By Kara Carrier / American Press

Several years ago, Wanda Ramirez was

awakened in the middle of the night with a strong sense that God was

trying to tell her

something. After some time praying and thinking, she realized what

he wanted was for her to help motivate at-risk young men

and help them transition into adulthood.

On Sept. 19, 2009, Ramirez established Young Men in Transition, a non-profit, religious organization that helps mentor and

guide at-risk males, age 10-17, who live in Lake Charles and surrounding areas.

“The program is basically to prevent juvenile detention, incarceration, HIV, teen pregnancy, everything that you can possible

think of preventing for our children is what this is about,” said Ramirez, who is the CEO and founder of the group.

Young Men in Transition’s curriculum

uses classroom training, guest speakers and field trips to teach young

men about issues

that the local community is facing. The curriculum includes

subjects such as welcome to the real world, crime prevention,

the importance of education, sex education, respect for authority,

drug and alcohol prevention, etc. Ramirez says she bases

the curriculum on what she sees are issues in the community and

goes from there.

Some field trips are for fun, such as

camping trips and waterparks, and some are to reinforce the subjects

taught in the curriculum.

The group recently completed a six-part program called “Real Talk”

where the kids visited a local prison and talked with the

prisoners.

“I need for these kids to see that this is real. You do not want this life. I have letter after letter from prisoners saying

‘you don’t want this life’ and begging and pleading for the kids to change,” said Ramirez.

The program has had over 60 participants in the past four years. During the summer, Young Men in Transition meet twice a

week in a building in the back of Ramirez’s home. During the school year, they meet once a month and usually have a guest

speaker. Ramirez says school always comes first, and she wants them to focus on their education when school is in session.

Ramirez also purchases caps and gowns for graduation once participants complete the curriculum. She says this helps encourage

the kids to stay in school and get excited about a high-school graduation. According to Ramirez, participants can graduate

from the curriculum but never from the program.

Ramirez funds the program mostly out of her own pocket and also through some donations and sponsors. “I am devoted. I work

two jobs, but this is my passion, and this is where I want to be,” said Ramirez.

“I’m not under any grant money, but we

need money. It’s difficult to get grant money and they definitely don’t

want me to

use God in the program if I do, and that’s not going to happen.

It’s a religious program. We even have a program in our curriculum

that is called L.O.R.D. — Lord Orders Righteousness Daily.”

Ramirez said that word of mouth is how kids and parents have been finding out about the program. “Some of the kids have never

been in trouble, some are headed to trouble and parents called, and some are referrals from other agencies,” she said.

Overall, Young Men in Transition’s main goal is prevention. According to Ramirez, there is not a lot of funding or support

for prevention, and the community needs to be aware that prevention is the best tool for guiding at-risk kids.

For more information about Young Men in Transition, call Wanda Ramirez at (337) 853-0991.