Youth Guidance (B.A.M.)

Youth Guidance offers an array of school-based programs that enable disadvantaged youth in Chicago to succeed in school and in life. Its innovative program, Becoming a Man, helps young males in the city’s most distressed public schools develop social and cognitive skills that reduce anti-social behavior, dropping out of school, and gang violence.

Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) is a social and emotional learning (SEL) program offered in school, in some cases complemented by afterschool sports, to at-risk male students in grades 7-12. The program currently consists of 30 voluntary one-hour small-group sessions (15 youth, maximum), conducted once a week during the school day over the course of the school year. Each session is built around a lesson designed to develop a specific skill through stories, role-playing and group exercises, and includes a homework assignment to practice and apply that skill.

The afterschool sports component reinforces conflict resolution skills and the SEL objectives of the in-school curriculum.

A recent randomized controlled trial by the University of Chicago Crime Lab showed that B.A.M. increased school engagement, reduced arrests for both violent and nonviolent crime, and had the potential to increase high school graduation rates.

The study also estimated that the social benefits of the program would be on the order of $49,000 to $119,000 per participant from increased lifetime earnings, tax payments, and lower public benefit use.

2014 Highlights

  • Youth Guidance secured unprecedented levels of funding for its B.A.M. program from both public and private sources, including more than $3 million in Title I funding and grants from major Chicago-area funders.
  • President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative cited B.A.M. prominently as a model program for creating opportunities for young men of color.

  • Youth Guidance initiated partnerships and capacity-building efforts to create the scaffolding for expanding B.A.M. within and beyond Chicago.

Youth Served

Revenue (in millions)


Becoming a Man students promoted to the next grade
  • Legend:
  • Actual
  • Projected