Founded in 2017 by Pastor Derrick Watkins of Jachin Baptist Church in Flint, Active Boys In Christ (ABC) is a mentoring program that works directly with children and families. The mission of the charitable organization is to “empower the Flint community youth and families through skilled trades, culinary and life-skills that will promote and celebrate lifelong learning for the success of youth and families.”
Pastor Watkins originated the structure of the program and works closely with his wife Christine Watkins, who is the director. “We introduce youth to skilled trades, life application and character skills,” the Founder reports. “We teach them about honesty, respect and self confidence to help them better interact with society and improve behavior patterns.”
ABC offers a summer program for Flint area youth ages 7-17 and in particular, those on the city’s north side. The maximum number of participants is 70 and classes are held from 5:45-8pm, five days a week. This year’s skilled trade focus includes: electrical, plumbing, carpentry and culinary arts; character skills such as honesty, forgiveness, respect and compassion. Classes are taught by volunteers who are licensed in their trades including electricians, carpenters, plumbers and those skilled in the culinary arts.
According to Watkins, an important part of the program is a mandatory parent meeting. “We let parents know what our expectations are for their youth,” he explains, “and we let them know what they can expect from us.” The participating youths must also sign a document agreeing to the expectations. “We have had great success with this.”
This year, the projects for youth ages 7-12 include building a wishing well, a trellis and a flower box. On Wednesdays, the participants cook their own food under the direction of an executive chef. Youth ages 13-17 are working on remodeling two houses. The project involves installing windows, siding, dry wall, electrical, plumbing and cabinetry.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
From October-April, ABC also offers weekly tutoring sessions for youth ages 7-17 in the homework room at Jachin Baptist Church. “We focus on whatever subject the student is struggling with,” says Watkins. College students, teachers and professionals volunteer to help the students.
Something very exciting is in the works for the ABC organization. They purchased property on Branch Road, which was an old mobile home community.
“Our hope is to build a youth development training facility there,” Watkins reports. They are currently working to clean up the property and remove all of the trash and debris. “Our goal is to construct a skilled trades curriculum-based center to help youth get involved in skilled trades.”
The Summer Youth Program has the support of local foundations and donors including the Charles Stewart Mott and Ruth Mott Foundations, Goyette Mechanical, The Parks Foundation, D&W Windows, McNaughton McKay, Local 948, Kalakay Construction, Inc., William E. Walters, UAW Local 659, Real Estate for a Cause and Jachin Baptist Church.
And, the program is life-changing for the participants. “Over the last six years, the ABC program has impacted over 300 youth!” Watkins exclaims. Learning a skilled trade gives them the opportunity to earn income with zero school debt, he adds, noting that there is a need for skilled trade workers with so many journeymen now of retirement age. “If you like to work with your hands you can learn a skill, take it anywhere you want and earn an income.”
Watkins says the words of Frederick Douglas ring very true: “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” He adds, “Our goal is to help build and change our community, one child at a time.”
To volunteer or donate, visit activeboysinchrist.org
Active Boys In Christ
2715 North Averill Ave., Flint
Photos courtesy of Pastor Derrick Watkins