The Council welcomed Bivian "Sonny" Lee III and Lauren Darnell from Son of a Saint for a presentation on their organization and its work to enhance the lives of fatherless young men in New Orleans.
Sonny Lee serves as the founder and director of the Son of a Saint program, which helps provide mentorship and guidance to boys growing up without fathers around the New Orleans area. Lee said he started the program six years ago and it continues to grow.
"I grew up fatherless, which is why I started this program for boys and young men facing similar struggles," said Lee. "But it doesn't stop with just the boys. We also support their mothers, brothers and their entire families. We have about 60 boys in the program and what's beautiful about it is that they start at age 10 and are with us until they're 18 - they become our family."
Son of a Saint equips young men with the tools they need to become productive members of society and requires that they maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA, complete four hours of community service each month and maintain good conduct at home, school and within the Son of a Saint organization. They provide a plethora of services including mental health counseling, recreational activities, group mentorship sessions, travel opportunities, tutoring, scholarships and tuition assistance.
"About 65 percent of the boys in the program have lost fathers from murder and another 25 percent from long-term incarceration," said Lee. "There's a lot of challenges that we deal with, but we're not going anywhere. We add about 20 boys a year to our program. Our point is to foster an environment where our boys can grow, become leaders in their communities and come back to us full circle as men to mentor the next generation."
Son of a Saint will host its fifth annual gala for the program on December 1, 2017, to raise funds and honor those in the program who have excelled.
"It is better to build strong children than to try and repair broken men," said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams. "A number of programs around town say they're for the kids, but you look into the eyes of some of those kids, and you don't always see that. When you look into the eyes of any one of your boys, you see light and hope. Thank you so much for the work you're doing and will continue to do for our families."