Semaj’s Story

Students at Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy are learning valuable lessons at Freedom Hall, a mentoring program for urban fatherless young men, directed by Shoulder To Shoulder (STS). It is opening new doors for fatherless youth like Semaj, one of the program’s top students.

When Semaj came to Freedom Hall as a seventh-grader, he stood out as a young man with tremendous potential and a hunger to improve. It took a lot of patience and love for him to realize his potential.

Before coming to Freedom Hall, Semaj had not worked as hard as he could to be the best student he could be because of the many difficult challenges and overwhelming stress in his personal life, due in part to his father who was missing in his life.

But with the caring guidance of dedicated mentors at Freedom Hall, Semaj became more focused and self-confident. He was able to move from a D student to a B student in eighth grade.

Semaj and his mother are strong believers in Freedom Hall. When they moved outside the Twin Rivers Unified School District boundaries, Semaj was determined to stay with Freedom Hall. His mother agreed, and Semaj rode the city bus and light rail one hour to and from school each day.

Semaj’s mom mentioned to us that Semaj was ready to be baptized. After counseling about what baptism meant, a staff member performed Semaj’s baptism in his pool with his family along with 60 friends, a few young men from Freedom Hall and STS staff on hand.

We are proud of Semaj and all the other urban fatherless young men God has brought to Freedom Hall. We look forward to our journey with our urban fatherless young men through their high school graduation. Please see for more information about Freedom Hall.

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Cardboard Boats Set Sail in Del Paso Heights

Fatherless Youth Compete in Annual Community Event

(Sacramento, California, July 29, 2011):

Shoulder To Shoulder will host its 4th Annual Del Paso Heights Cardboard Boat Regatta on Saturday, August 6 at Rio Linda High School Pool, culminating the agency’s 5-week Level Up summer program. Boats will be designed and built by boys ages 11-16 who will team up and compete in the race. The team with the last boat floating wins. The Regatta will also feature a BBQ, swimming and awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of the young men and volunteers participating in the Level Up program. The event is free and open to the public. Level Up is an alternative to a summer spent on the streets and includes a variety of recreational and academic activities, plus service projects and field trips. College stu­dents from California and Arizona serve as group leaders and mentors. In Del Paso Heights, approximately 70% of youth live in a fatherless home. Fatherless youth are more likely to parent before age 20, abuse drugs and join a gang rather than finish high school, attend college and join the workforce. “The program lets the boys know their options and choices,” states LaToya Griffin, mother of one of the participating youth. “Before this program, they didn’t think they had any.” During the school year, Shoulder To Shoulder operates Freedom Hall, a youth develop­ment program for fatherless young men at Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy and Grant High School. The program provides mentoring, tutoring, character develop­ment, life skills training, and engages youth in community service. Student Isaiah Mathews says “They showed me how I was going down the wrong path and that I need­ed to get it together. Now I come down and help other boys like some of the mentors helped me. I want to give back.” Shoulder To Shoulder’s Founder Bill Coibion states, “Del Paso Heights has some of the highest rates of crime, poverty, child abuse, and drop-outs in Sacramento County. We are setting a positive example for these young men, to help them become leaders in their community and inspire others to follow in their footsteps.”  Shoulder To Shoulder’s goal is to break the cycle of fatherlessness in Del Paso Heights.


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