Working as a counsellor at HMP Northward Prison, Christopher Murry was seeing 13, 14 and 15-year-old boys passing through the system and asking for a second chance at life. There was little Mr Murray could do to help these particular boys, but he felt compelled to go into the country’s high schools and begin connecting with at-risk students before they passed the point of no return.
This was 2009, and since then, Murray’s desire to help has flourished into today’s fantastic and well-respected programme, Boyz 2 Men. As a high school-based mentorship programme, Boyz 2 Men helps transform young boys who are at risk of falling behind and succumbing to a life limited by bad choices. Their programming offers a brighter future, helping them grow into capable men ready to face the challenges life throws their way.
The First Breakthrough
Before Boyz 2 Men became what it is today, Murray made his first breakthrough with young Seaford Russell Jr. The then 13-year-old George Hicks Middle School student had already been arrested once and knew if his path did not change, he would end up spending his life behind bars or worse. Living in a 1.5-bed trailer home with a family of seven and being exposed to drugs, violence and more, Seaford’s home life was not aiding his prospects. He also recalls how he was not performing to his full potential in school, as he and his friends would be regularly suspended for fighting with their peers or disrespecting adults.
However, even though Seaford spent his youth sleepwalking into a life lacking opportunity and success, he claims that though he was troubled, he always wanted to become something more. So when Christopher Murray walked into his life, Seaford saw a rare chance to make real change and grabbed that chance with two hands. Seaford, under the wing of Mr Murray, was worried it might be too late for him. But what he knew was that he needed to listen to people like Christopher who helped fill the void left by his absent father.
At this point, the Boyz 2 Men programme didn’t really exist – Seaford being the first to accept help. The one-on-one time between the pair was personal and often spent on the water, fishing on Christopher’s own dime and sharing a safe space when Seaford needed to let off steam. After a year of this one-on-one time, Seaford came to reject the path of negativity he was on and started walking towards a new life, helped by his new mentor.
Since then, Seaford has gone on to earn himself a successful career and build his own family. He’s currently the lead sports journalist at Cayman Compass and has, in fact, become a Director of the Boyz 2 Men programme. Seaford attributes his successes to the programme, thoughtfully remarking, “The programme planted a seed, and along the way several good people watered it.”
Through his mentorship of Seaford, Christopher realised the potential for Boyz 2 Men. "By changing the boys' self-image", Christopher remarks, "we can help change their lives." And Boyz 2 Men was born, helping and encouraging other at-risk boys like Seaford to better their prospects through mentorship.
Teachers and parents quickly began to see positive changes in the boys enrolled in the programme. And as these changes permeated schools, more and more students wanted to join, seeing for themselves how the programme unlocked success in boys just like them.
The Boyz 2 Men programme is now well established in Cayman and it continues to motivate boys onto the right path, steering them into a more successful future.
More recently, the programme welcomed 15-year-old Che Powell from John Gray High School. Before he joined Boyz 2 Men, Che regularly indulged in negative habits and practices with his friends. Looking back on the Boyz 2 Men programme, he recalls how he and his peers would laugh at the possibilities that could be gained via the programme. He remembers how he initially thought Boyz 2 Men was a waste of time, but he would soon be proven wrong. Eventually, Che and his peers sought out the programme as a means of entertainment and to cease indulging in their negative activities.
As a proud member of Boyz 2 Men from 8th to 12th grade, Che recalls the progress and development celebrations he had with his peers, going out for dinner and to the theatres. And, after spending those four years in the company of good men from Cayman's community, Che has obtained a Diploma in Business Administration and is currently studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, as well as being employed part-time. Che attributes his educational success to the programme and believes his educational accomplishments to be his biggest life achievement to date.
Looking back on their time spent with Christopher Murray and Simon Miller – a second director at Boyz 2 Men – both Seaford and Che are thankful and fond of their involvement in the programme. When asked what his proudest moment is, Seaford replies, "Hearing my mother say she was proud of me. Employment and wealth are well and good but when my mother told me that, they felt like the best words ever spoken to me."
Both men hope Boyz 2 Men continues to grow and help those much like themselves. As a director of the programme, Seaford continues to give back, not just to the programme’s students but to those in the wider community who would identify as at-risk young men. For those boys who are considering joining Boyz2Men, both Seaford and Che encourage them to do so. “Boyz 2 Men is an outlet for those who were born to fail in the eyes of society and for those who want to defy those stigmas”.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
The Boyz 2 Men programme invites exemplary men from the community into schools to share their life experiences, while profiling their unique challenges when growing up. During these sessions, the boys are given the opportunity to question the men on how they overcame problems and achieved success in their lives.
If you would like to get involved, email Christopher C. Murray at email@example.com or call on (345) 329 0021. Or, contact Simon Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on (345) 328 1443. Their team is always looking for positive role models.
If you don’t have the time to contribute, they also accept donations to fund group activities – fishing, painting, etc. With the right funding, they would also love to expand the programme to more schools and year groups.