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Urban Ed Academy Sets Boys On A New Path To Success

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) Some remember him as a deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Gavin Newsom. But others see him as the Ultimate Godfather. And he's turning boys into young responsible young men in San Francisco's Bayview.

Thanks to Dwayne Jones, you'll see boys in the Bayview with T-shirts that read, "School is My Thing." They don't just wear it, they're learning to live it.

The goal at Urban Ed Academy is to get underserved boys aged 7 to 11 excited about learning, creating, and achieving. It's a five-year-old program that's served more than 300 boys at the YMCA in the Bayview Hunter's Point neighborhood. Founder Dwayne Jones is preparing them to excel.

"These are the kinds of jobs that will be available when they are working age," he explained. "So we are trying to prepare them for the things they will see and have the foundation necessary to be successful in that."

Many of the boys don't have a father figure at home. Staff and volunteer coaches at Urban Ed Academy serve as mentors.

They teach academics, character development, health, recreation and community service for six hours on Saturdays.  And the boys see tangible results: Jones says their truancy and suspensions have dropped and their grades jumped, all by about 80%.

Though the program is for 3rd through 5th grade boys, graduates can become junior mentors, like 12-year-old Gregory Bolds.

"I want to be an architect when I grow up," Bolds said. "So I need a lot of math and engineering skills to do that."

Bolds' mother credits Jones for keeping her son on the right track.

"Living in the Bayview is challenging and trying to keep him focused sometimes, without mentorship, I don't know if I'd be able to do it on my own," said Rionda Batiste.

"We have really high expectations for these boys," Jones said. "They clearly have a lot of energy. When channeled in the right direction, they can do amazing things."

Then he added, "These boys are our collective TRUTHS and we come here every Saturday to face our truths. Our policies, community environments, and households work to undermine their success and UEA is an effort and movement to change the trajectory for boys of color."

Jones himself has done some amazing things. He's led programs to get jobs for young people. Lottie Titus says years ago, Jones helped get her on her feet and now he mentors her grandson.

"He never thinks of himself more highly than he ought in spite of the people he knows and all the great things he's done," Titus said."

So for giving boys hope and a future through his Urban Ed Academy, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Dwayne Jones.

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