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His pain, their gain

According to Becoming A Man program counselors, one of the final stages of becoming a man is learning how to face and accept criticism from your peers and colleagues. Even though all of the counselors have already become men, they too say they live by the values they teach to at-risk young men throughout Chicago through B.A.M., a mentoring, counseling and anti-violence program created by Anthony DiVittorio.

“Working with Tony is really great,” Tim Jackson, a B.A.M. counselor said. “If you get the chance to read the curriculum, you can tell he really poured it out on it.

In addition to Jackson, B.A.M. counselors Calvin Ferguson and Jason Story expressed similar sentiments and said they consider DiVittorio to be an older brother more than anything.

     “When Tony comes to the groups, the guys focus differently,” Ferguson said. “He’s almost like a brother in a sense—he’s the brother who’s been everywhere and now he’s come home to tell the story.” Story explained how significant DiVittorio’s involvement with the youth in the program really is, saying that even the most ‘knuckle-head’ of youth pay attention when DiVittorio’s around.
      “When Tony is around, even they want to know more about him,” Story said. “They renamed him, ‘Tone-Bone,’ and call him ‘Steven Seagal.’”
In 2002, the B.A.M. program was first established through Youth Guidance –a social service agency that provides services to at-risk youth— at Roberto Clemente High School, located in Humboldt Park on the city’s West Side. The program was intended to provide male youths in the process of becoming a man with the guidance to leading a better life.
According to Youth Guidance, B.A.M. is an evidence-based, group counseling/mentoring, violence prevention and educational enrichment program that is focused on building socio-emotional and behavioral skills among at-risk young male students.  B.A.M. is aimed specifically at males because they are more likely than females to be either victims or perpetrators of violent crime, according to officials.
For DiVittorio, his rewarded is in knowing that other male youth –that were just like him—are being helped the way that they are through the program.
“I was wounded,” DiVittorio said. “My older brother, when I was 5-years old, taught me how to wrestle, and then I had my father figure. He was the only male that took me under his wing. When I was about 7 years old, that’s when he got into drugs.”
DiVittorio explained that because of all the struggles he had to deal with growing up, his desire for fatherhood and mentoring remained constant. It was only until he turned 22 that he finally found what he had desired while growing up.
“I got my first martial arts instructor when I was age 22, and he transformed my life,” DiVittorio said. “When he transformed my life, he made me realize what I was missing.”
Since crossing paths with his martial arts instructor, DiVitorrio’s purpose in life changed for him and began him on the path to helping other males.
Because of the struggles that DiVittorio dealt with growing up, he said he has made B.A.M. focus exactly on the kinds of struggles that potential at-risk males face today.
 “We can work with the most troublesome kids,” Jackson said. “You can work with youth outside of your race because they can identify what the program is about.”
However, it’s not just the curriculum that makes B.A.M. successful but it also includes the counselors who administer it, according to DiVittorio.
“It’s true, I’m very passionate about what I do, but there’s also many other people who are very passionate as well,” DiVittorio said. “You just got to find them.”

By Craig Cody Coor

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