CHICAGO, Feb. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In recognition of a youth counseling and after-school sports program that demonstrably increases high school graduation rates and decreases violent crime, President Barack Obama this afternoon attended Youth Guidance's B.A.M. (Becoming A Man™) – Sports Edition session at Hyde Park Academy High School and visited with the 15 students in the program. The president participated in a group session with students and counselors. He heard firsthand how B.A.M. – Sports helps students address some of their toughest challenges and encourages them to stay involved in school and the community. "Meeting with the president was, for lack of better words, a great experience," said Corey, who attended the B.A.M. session. "Having him sit down in the circle with us and share his past experiences and compare them to ours is amazing. It's inspiring to hear his story and know he is not different from us." B.A.M. – Sports, with an after-school sports component run by World Sport Chicago (WSC) , is a counseling, mentorship, violence prevention and educational enrichment program that promotes social-emotional and behavioral competencies in male youth from at-risk communities. A study by The University of Chicago Crime Lab released in 2012 proves this cost-effective program works. The study found that B.A.M. – Sports:
reduced failing grades by 37 percent
decreased violent crime arrests by 44 percent
increased graduation rates by 10-23 percent
"It's rewarding to see sport can play an important role in helping youth develop the strengths they need to face their many challenges," said WSC executive director Scott Myers. "Sport is not just a powerful physical development tool – it's also an important social and emotional development tool. By combining our activities with Youth Guidance's cognitive-behavioral therapy intervention, we have created a remarkable — and inexpensive — program to help young people succeed in the most challenging environments." B.A.M. – Sports plays an important role in the effort to decrease youth violence. The program is garnering attention for the profound way it helps youth develop skills to participate positively in school and the community. Obama is the second political leader to visit the B.A.M. – Sports program recently. Last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel participated in a private B.A.M. session to observe how the program supports at-risk youth living in Chicago neighborhoods that have high rates of violence. Inspired by what he saw, he announced how critical the program is to reducing youth violence and pledged to help bring it to more youth through both public and private support. "The University of Chicago Crime Lab study shows Youth Guidance and World Sport Chicago's B.A.M. – Sports program reduces youth violence, increases school achievement and helps Chicago's young men reach their full potential," said Youth Guidance CEO Michelle Adler Morrison. "'Becoming A Man – Sports Edition' helps young men find evidence of their worth, strengthens their connection to and success in school and builds safer communities." B.A.M . Founder Anthony DiVittorio designed the program's curriculum around an innovative application of cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, resiliency theory and rites of passage "men's work" that have been demonstrated to successfully help youth improve self-regulation, social skills and interpersonal skills. The program supports the development of at-risk male youth through school-based counseling and mentoring, violence prevention and educational enrichment, addressing the systemic causes of violence by focusing on six core values: integrity, accountability, self-determination, positive anger expression, visionary goal-setting and respect for womanhood, each serving as building blocks to personal and academic success.