Several teenagers and pre-teens sat attentively in a semicircle, listening to their BOSS Coach Cora Thorne as she reviewed the objectives required for them to master their lives.
“I will stay mindful that success requires that I must be master of my emotions and this will be accomplished through my remembering that I am more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loves me,” Thorne read from the list of 10 pledges each of the youth will make.“To be a true success is a gift from God, therefore I will remember to seek His guidance, and I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not unto my own understanding,” she continued.
The youth were gathered at the Prayer Praise and Power Church Without Walls on Rhode Island Ave. that fall morning as participants in the BOSS The Movement, a mentoring and training program designed to help young people give birth to their God-given visions, and to provide them with the tools to do so.
Next month, the group of 15 students will graduate the program with a new sense of purpose and direction, and a better understanding of entrepreneurship.
“There’s a room full of children who were not well disciplined, not really involved, now full of life, energy, now not afraid to raise their hands,” said Denise McDowell, a regional master trainer for the program, overseeing the National Capitol Area . “They can get in front of a class, as leaders, poised and confident. You hear kids asking about commerce instead of [music] videos. You see how well the children have been groomed in terms of entrepreneurship and leadership.”
Over 20 weeks, youth involved in a BOSS the Movement program develop skills in leadership, discipline, positive risk-taking, entrepreneurship, personal development and public speaking, all while making a habit of the behaviors that lead to success.
“A lot of these young people really aren’t as lazy as people say they are. They really want to sustain themselves,” said G. Marie Livingston, pastor of Prayer, Praise and Power, where the course was held in its early weeks. It has since moved to Rhema Christian Center Church in NE Washington.
“So many youth are so lost [as] to who they are what they’re all about and they have no direction. Especially the young men are trapped in a situation where they feel that they have the street mentality. Many think they won’t make it to age 20,” Livingston said. “To have this positive program to birth their visions out of them is exciting.”
Developed in 1985 in the Compton Unified School District, the principles taught in BOSS the Movement have been embraced around the world in countries and regions including the Philippines, Indonesia, Caribbean, Nigeria, Switzerland, Japan, Ghana and Brazil.
BOSS, which stands for Building on Spiritual Substance, was developed by Al and Hattie Hollingsworth, who are ministers, successful business owners and international motivational speakers. The founders are coming to the DC area at the end of the month for a three-day Vertical Leap Adult Spiritual Boot Camp.
McDowell was drawn to the program in part because of her own struggles in life as a youth.
The Lanham resident had an alcoholic father who left when she was only four years old. Her mother died in a car accident three years later. Afterward, despite having a large family, McDowell was homeless.
Sleeping in apartment building hallways, and riding buses from one end of town to the other; one particular bus ride would impact her life forever.
An elderly woman she met on the rid told her, “Never feel sorry for yourself, never have self pity.”
From that time to now, as a wife, mother of five, and grandmother of three children, those words have revolutionized her life. In 2004 when her pastor the late Bishop Clarence C. Givens called for volunteers to start a BOSS the Movement program at the church, McDowell answered that call.
She became a certified trainer and started her first class in October, 2005. Since then, McDowell has graduated several classes of young leaders in the DC Metropolitan area.
In March of 2009, she began offering the classes to juveniles at the Upper Marlboro Adult prison. Every Tuesday, McDowell’s team of certified trainers teach young male inmates how to write out their purpose and how to plan – some of them for the first time in their lives.
Along with McDowell, her husband and 17 year-old son, Chris, are also certified BOSS trainers.
“Before I took BOSS, I was the class clown with no focus,” Chris McDowell said. “BOSS gave me direction, and taught me how to have a better focus on life. I thought that life was all about fun and girls… Getting training is really helping me to help my peers.”
Chris is not the only success story. Graduates have shared that the program has given them the self control to remain virgins in order to achieve their dreams, boosted their self confidence in spite of a traumatic past, and helped improve their grades in school.
“I’m hoping more people will get excited about it and jump on the bandwagon,” Livingston said.
BOSS the Movement sessions are held every Saturday for twenty weeks from 10 a.m. to 12 noon at the Prayer, Praise, and Power Church Without Walls, 6216 Rhode Island Avenue, Riverdale, Maryland, 20737. To enroll in the program, call Pastor Livingston at (301) 699-0000, or visit www.bossnca.com. Information on becoming a certified trainer is also on the website.