“Becoming A Man” (or “BAM”), founded by Anthony Ramirez Di Vittorio (aka “Tony D), engages high-school boys in weekly, hour-long sessions during the school day, where they discuss the challenges they face and ways to cope with them. By incorporating clinical counseling and mentorship methods, BAM helps young men successfully navigate the complex, sometimes life-or-death situations they are too often forced to face.

In 2009, the Crime Lab partnered with Youth Guidance, the organization offering BAM, to formally evaluate the program using a randomized controlled trial. The results of that evaluation and a subsequent one were astounding:

  • The academic performance of participants improved, increasing their on-time high school graduation rates by 19 percent.
  • Participants had around 50 percent fewer arrests for violent crimes during the program year, compared to a control group of students receiving status quo school and community supports.
  • Based on the reductions in arrests alone, each $1 invested in BAM generates up to $30 in societal gains. 

Thanks to this data proving BAM’s efficacy, the program has since expanded and is now enrolling around 8,000 students in Chicago each year across 120 schools, and 450 youth at nine schools in Boston. In 2014, President Barack Obama joined a BAM meeting to launch his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to support similar programs nationwide. 

BAM has demonstrated that behavioral science can help promote healing from trauma, improve decision making, and reduce violence as a result. Globally, it has attracted interest from Rio de Janeiro to Mexico City, from London to Tokyo, which have all sent delegations to Chicago to learn about this work. 

BAM isn’t only changing the lives of young people who participate; it has given society a new sense of possibility about reaching teens, who some may have written off. 

“This work has moved the field,” said AJ Watson, BAM’s national director. “Adolescence is not too late — it’s actually a really great time to intervene in the lives of young people. And having this evidence allows us to make that case in a very strong way.”