(11/08/12) - Saginaw and Flint are two of the most violent cities in America. That's leading to gangs, violence and drugs.
That's why Brian Pruitt started the organization 'Power of Dad', a Mid-Michigan program that's turning fatherless boys into men.
These 25 men have something in common. They have to bare the responsibilities of manhood without their fathers in their lives.
Fifteen-year-old Dejan Hoosier is a sophomore at Saginaw High. He says sports and school are keeping his mind off of not having his dad around. He was 11 when his father went to prison. Not having him in his life hurts.
"I was so used to having my dad. Then when he left, I was like, 'I don't know what to do.' He gone, then he's going to be in prison for the next 30 years," he said.
Dejan relies on his mother to play two roles at home.
"I'm her only child, so she help me through it a lot. Now she's playing mom and dad. She really helps me though," he said.
Brian Pruitt knows what it's like to grow up without a male role model.
"I was a young man who cried himself to sleep at night and asked the question, 'Where's my dad?" he said.
That's why he started an organization in Saginaw for men who are 13 to 18 years old. Every nine months, 25 males are chosen to be a part of 'Power of Dad'. They learn skills that only a man can teach them.
"We teach them 22 life skills that their fathers were never able to teach them. At the end of the nine months, we have a graduation, write a passage, and that's the moment where we say, you've been with us nine months, now you're a man," Pruitt said.
On Monday nights, they have open gym. They're not always on the basketball court. At half time, Pruitt brings in a speaker from the community.
Chris Jackson traveled from Greensboro North Carolina to hold a two day seminar in his hometown of Saginaw. When he read about all of the violence going on here locally, he knew he had to do something about it fast.
"I want to be that person that stands in the gap, and you say Chris, and you tell me what your dad didn't do and I want to apologize for your father to start to make it right." he said. "I want to talk to them about their fathers not being in their lives and how forgiving their fathers, how that will start their process of healing, even in this program of 'Power of Dad,'" Jackson said.
He ends his message by tying a string around every man's waist to symbolize an umbilical cord. Jackson challenges them to say out loud what they want to forgive their fathers for. Then he cuts the string.
"What this is going to do is it's going to release you and allow you to grow up as an individual because what's happening is with this unforgiveness that you're walking around with. Your dad is still feeding you this negative vibe," Jackson said.
It's hard for some of these men to look Jackson in the eye because forgiving their father's isn't so easy.
"Even though it is kind of hard growing up without a dad, you're going to have to learn to forgive him. He wasn't really a bad dad. He just left, he wasn't in my life to teach me things that I needed to help me grow up," Hoosier said.
"I forgive him for being out of my life since I was a baby because when I was born, he was already in prison and he got out when I was 14 and he's been in and out of my life," said Christopher Barnes.
At the end of the two-day seminar, very young man walks away with a certificate.
"This certificate is saying this is the night that I forgave my father,"
Jackson says it's a reminder of the commitment they're making to be better men than their fathers. The men will graduate from the program next year.
There is an application process in order to be in Power of Dad. You can find that application by clicking HERE. http://powerofdad.org/pod/Welcome.html
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 989-249-0951.
ABC12 Main Station