The Building Better Men Program mentors and equips young males, showing them that they can be successful despite challenges associated with absent/uninvolved fathers.
Building Better Men (B2M) was founded in 1991 by Odis Bellinger, a male leadership program for youth ages 8 – 18, primarily from economically challenged communities in Southeast Detroit. Having grown up in a fatherless home with a lack of resources, Odis understands the struggles of today’s youth who are angry, resentful, confused, uncertain, often unmotivated and desperate for guidance. Many have been exposed to crime, violence and even death, resulting in an undercurrent of fear and self-defeating behaviors. He founded B2M on the belief that “Young men were not created for funeral home processions and prisons. Young men were made for college, trade schools and entrepreneurship.”
Within Detroit, nearly 72% of children come from single-parent households. Statistics show that children raised in fatherless homes are far more likely to experience poverty, engage in risky behaviors, perform poorly in school, and suffer mental distress. Our program develops and encourages self-awareness, (–personal responsibility, self-actualization, and self-efficacy, helping young men overcome socioeconomic challenges and develop the skill sets needed to achieve life-skill potential and success.
Throughout a typical year, we run four 12-week after-school sessions consisting of 30 attendees that meet twice a week. Additionally, the program is enhanced by literacy support programs, early career exploration programs, and recreational and cultural field trips, all intended to help our young men experience life beyond their own reality.
Throughout the years, we have reached approximately 120 young males and our program have led to increased student grade point averages, decreased student code of conduct violations, and improved school culture/environments. Our approach has proven to be a dynamic platform for positive cultural change and our list of past enrollees includes doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, basketball players, news anchormen, graphic artists and myriad other men in other successful vocations.
Programs are held at schools, community centers, and churches. We received support from SAY Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park, run by Mitch Albom Charities, where we have regular access to a classroom.
As founder and director of Building Better Men, Odis does more than talk with boys. With more than 20 years of hands on experience in mentoring and counseling, he’s committed to inspiring Black boys to think pass their circumstances. His programs are absurdly useful and effective. He’s earned his position as strategist, speaker, coach and father figure. No matter what role he’s in, his goal is simple, to empower boys by creating thought provoking programs that instill leadership qualities.
Growing up fatherless is a struggle far too many of our young boys and girls face today. Angry, resentful, confused, uncertain and often unmotivated, the youth of Metro Detroit are desperate for guidance. Odis Bellinger was once one of those children. He credits his success to two people who refused to give up on him, no matter how hard he pushed them away. Now a successful author, community leader and motivational speaker, Bellinger continues to ask one question: “How do I Build a Better Man?”
A lifelong Detroiter and graduate of Benedictine High School, Bellinger holds a BA in Communications from Fayetteville State University, NC, a MA in Rehabilitation Counseling and Community Inclusion from Wayne State University, MI, and a post-graduate certificate in Social Service Administration. It was the combination of his own experience and education that drove Bellinger to his life’s calling – building better men. Bellinger is the Director/Founder of the Building Better Men Program, an organization that seeks out males age 8-17 to bring value and positive change one young man at a time. It is Bellinger’s hope that by changing the life of one, he will change the lives of many.
Odis Bellinger has completed extensive research on conflict resolution, violence prevention techniques and socio-economic issues affecting youth and young adults, primarily African-American males. He conducts workshops and trainings focusing primarily on building African American male development and leadership skills. He has been recognized by local and national media outlets for his efforts related to his community work within the urban community. Most recently, he was awarded the 2017 Detroit News Michiganian of the Year honor for his long-time community involvement.
Since 1991, Building Better Men has helped about 120 young males each year develop the confidence and skill sets to become successful, contributing members of their communities. Starting with boys who feel stuck and moving them to men who persevere to overcome barriers, our mentees have become mural artists, music producers, doctors, basketball players, news anchorman, financial advisors and importantly, involved fathers. Because of the impact of this program in the Detroit area, the Building Better Men program consistently has a waiting list.
85% of the young men serviced in the Building Better Program are from the 48205, 48214, 48213 area of Detroit MI. The 48205 area code is considered the most impoverished area in the city of Detroit. Our program participants are 90% African American, 5% Caucasian, and 5% Native American/Hispanic.