On a warm September afternoon in the beautiful gardens of the Historic Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta’s West End community, thirteen middle- and high school-age Atlanta males celebrated an incredible feat—releasing original works as published authors.

“Boys, Books, & Brotherhood,” a special initiative led by Atlanta-based nonprofit, Raising Expectations, inspired teenage boys living on Atlanta’s westside to improve their reading and writing abilities while learning critical thinking and communication skills. The United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African American Partnership funded the initiative which provided participants with age-appropriate books and positive, male mentors.

“It is important for our young men to explore the world and their emotions. Boys, Books, & Brotherhood provided them with the space and opportunity to do that through reading and writing,” shared Raising Expectations co-founder Maria Armstrong.

“Boys, Books, & Brotherhood” participants worked closely with volunteers from the Eta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity during the initiative which involved regular meetings after school and some Saturdays. Alpha Phi Alpha volunteers read books with the boys, discussed readings with them, and provided ongoing support and mentorship during the boys’ creative writing process.

At the book release party, longtime Raising Expectations participant, 12th grader Michael Thomas, expressed the gravity of the event with attendees. “The images I see of young men that look like me in the news are not usually positive. Too often, I see young men involved in crime or being killed for no reason. Today is different. Today, we are celebrating thirteen young African American men who are now published authors!” he shared with an enthusiastic crowd that included parents, community leaders, and supporters.

Through a partnership with the nonprofit Young Authors Publishing, “Boys, Books, & Brotherhood” participants were able to write their own books and have them published. Titles like “Jirou’s Journey to Friendship,” “Never Give Up,” and “Back Off, Bully!” provided a glimpse into the lives and experiences of each young man. Their writings expose challenges, goals, wisdom, and reflections of their own lives while inspiring readers.

Proceeds from book sales go into education fund accounts held by Citizens Trust Bank for each young man. Funds can be used for expenses associated with post-secondary education or credentialed career training programs. For a listing of books written by “Boys, Books & Brotherhood” participants and ways to purchase, visit www.raisingexpectations.org/booklaunch2019.