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In a patriarchal society, all people suffer under the impossible expectations and stereotypes imposed on human beings and human relationships, particularly when models of healthy masculinity are lacking at home. Understanding this constant pressure to “be a man” or “act like a lady,” My Daddy Taught Me That (MDTMT) and My Sistah Taught Me That (MSTMT) smash these false narratives by fundamentally redefining what it means to “[WO]Man Up!” How? MDTMT/MSTMT provide Western North Carolina (WNC) youths space to find, ignite, and fuel their passion while guided by positive adult influences who are invested in their growth, learning, and development. Turns out it does “take a village” to overcome societal norms and systemic impacts that continue to impede individual and community actualization.
Problematic systems, institutions, and cultures deeply impact people’s past, present, and future lives. Children are born into systems and scenarios beyond their control but have to bear the burden of these systemic inequities and individual decisions. Regardless of the circumstances, children are often without trusted, intimate role models to guide them in the process of becoming. These youths are left treading water in sink-or-swim situations where there may be no clear direction or signs of escape. This is where KL Training Solutions steps up with a lifeline.
Inspired by his father’s work, Kenyon Lake launched the MDTMT program in 2010 and published the supporting My Daddy Taught Me That book in 2012. The dream was to influence generations of boys to become positive, productive men in the community by offering real-life examples and relationships demonstrating what it means to be a MAN. The dream quickly expanded. Launched in 2016 and headed by program founder/owner Leslie Council, MSTMT is MDTMT’s female counterpart. Both programs are part of the KL Training Solutions family and operate as 501c3 nonprofit organizations.
My Daddy Taught Me That
Many American male youths must overcome the complex challenges of absent fathers, increased incarceration numbers, and high education dropout rates. Without tangible examples of evolved masculinity, these youths are likely to default to patterns of toxic masculinity prevalent in Western culture and compounded by the effects of systemic racism, sexism, and so on. In the face of these -isms and -phobias, the MDTMT mission is “to assist in developing young males into Righteous, Respectable, and Responsible MEN through empowerment, education, and support.” The goal is to guide young men in transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood by focusing on making good decisions, accepting responsibility, and embracing accountability.
In their commitment to positive male youth development, MDTMT partners with local schools, low-income housing developments, the juvenile court system, churches (and other faith groups), social service agencies, and other community organizations to promote pro-social friendships, strong interpersonal skills, sound decision-making, and personal integrity. The program initially served males ages 12-19, that is, until dedicated community leader and student ambassador DeAngelo (“Lo”) Collins founded the MDTMT Junior program, broadening program reach to include 6 to 11-year-olds. Community meals and discussion groups are held biweekly in addition to monthly experiential learning activities to expand youths’ perspectives, interests, and possibilities. Weekly tutoring and ongoing career training opportunities are also key components of this personal transformation journey.
My Sistah Taught Me That
Similarly, MSTMT is a young girls’ developmental program designed to encourage, inspire, educate, and empower girls ages 11-19, with emphasis placed on girls growing up in single-parent homes without their fathers. Unfortunately, many American females grow up without the influence, direction, guidance, or presence of their fathers. MSTMT understands that filling these gaps with trustworthy, competent role models is critical.
Therefore, MSTMT links young ladies to local female leaders dedicated to providing opportunities, engaging in open dialogue, and exposing participants to new experiences. The intent is to help these youths grow and mature into authentic, empowered individuals. Why? Because the transition to young adulthood can be difficult, especially when girls are left to traverse these hurdles, struggles, and pressures without the high-level support necessary to not only get through but to also rise above. The group meets weekly with the MSTMT CoreCrew and participates in monthly experiential learning activities, believing that exposure to new people, places, and possibilities is the path to greater youth connection with the self, the community, and the world.
Pitfalls, Pivots, and Progress
While COVID threatened many Asheville nonprofits, KL Training Solutions’ programming continues to thrive, although adaptability has proven essential. The Asheville Mall is home to both organizations, which allowed MDTMT/MSTMT to continue its in-person programming with minor tweaks and changes. However, experiential trips have temporarily taken a back seat to job training, including computer coding, barbering, photography, carpentry, electrical, and car detailing focal areas. Participants make $10/hour at 10 hours per week while gaining invaluable skills and experiences for successful workforce navigation.
Furthermore, the recent uptick in hard(er) drug use mobilized the KL Training team; volunteers are now embedded in local schools and serve as chaperones, hall monitors, and mediators in real time, where they make a real difference in real lives. More in-community presence has led to a rise in program interest. MDTMT and MSTMT enrollment has grown to about 80 boys and 40 girls. As such, capacity-building, space size, and hours of accessibility are rapidly emerging issues as MDTMT/MSTMT works to shift program offerings from 3 to 5-6 days a week. In short, funding and space remain top priorities in fostering KL Training Solutions’ progress.
The MDTMT/MSTMT solution is to change the future by changing the present. This change begins and ends with connection. This change begins and ends with community. Funding this change is fundamental social justice work – because our kids deserve everything and every chance we’ve got to give.
Want to extend the lifeline’s reach? Interested in supporting proactive, direct solutions to creating more humane futures for all? Consider donating your hard-earned dollars or time to these heart-driven, evidence-based interventions! Click the links to learn more about volunteering or donating at MDTMT, or choose where to put your donations to work at MSTMT. A little now can make a huge difference later.