WHAT WE DO
WHAT WE DO
Since 1990, the OK Program has touched the lives of thousands of African-American males from the ages of 12 to 18 in order to reverse the high rates of homicides and incarceration among that population. Our collaborative, team mentorship model brings together local police officers, school districts, and the faith-based community with the goal of transforming lives and empowering African-American men and boys to improve their communities. It has been working since 1990
On most Saturdays in several cities across the country, the OK Program convenes KIC'IT sessions (Kids Interacting, Communicating Immix Teammates) which bring together OK boys and a team of African-American adult male mentors. Through the KIC'IT sessions, OK mentors, or Teammates, develop meaningful and lasting relationships with our boys by discussing topical – and often challenging – issues and sharing life experiences that will positively impact academic achievement, build respect for self and others, and emphasize the importance of community engagement.
One of the main goals of the OK Program is to improve relationships between the law enforcement and African-American communities. As a result, OK boys receive at the KIC'IT sessions an in depth understanding on how to interact with the police when contacted or confronted by an officer, which often occurs more than it ever should in the lives of young black males.
KIC'IT sessions also include a hearty lunch and fun sports that get the boys, as well as their adult mentors, moving and engaged in physical activity. The OK Program model – which has been working since 1990 – is a holistic approach to mentoring and youth leadership development that engages the body, mind, spirit, and soul.
Read about OK Program outcomes here.
Today, OK Program alums are PhDs, college basketball coaches, law enforcement officers, professional athletes, actors, and successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. They are loving husbands and fathers and are actively involved in their communities. Most importantly, they are passing on to the next generation of African-American boys the principles and values they learned from their OK experiences.
Learn more about our OK Alumni here.
HOW IT WORKS
HOW IT WORKS
One of the OK Program’s key ingredients for success has been its deeply collaborative model. To reach hundreds of African-American boys every year, the Program brings together school districts, the faith-based community, and local law enforcement.
School districts are key partners for the local OK Chapters. Saturday KIC'IT sessions are held at the participating schools. School officials see the importance of having the OK Program on its campus and readily agree that the program’s presence makes a difference in the lives of its African-American male students.
An ongoing need for the Program’s success is a cadre of dedicated African-American men who see the importance of reaching back to help make sure that young black boys are not only surviving, but thriving. The faith-based community has led the way in identifying OK mentors who are also recruited from community-based organizations, fraternities…even from barbershops. Faith-based leaders also serve on the Board of Directors for local OK chapters and are strong advocates for the program in their city.
Equally important is the participation and full cooperation the OK Program receives from local police departments who assign an African-American officer to serve full-time as the OK Program Coordinator. The Coordinator is on the school campus daily working in close collaboration with teachers to make sure the OK boys get the educational support they need to succeed. The police officers play a vital role in the Saturday KIC'IT sessions and become mentors, role models, friends, and family to many of the OK boys. This collaborative model helps improve the relationship between the African-American community and the law enforcement community.
Read more about how the OK Program works here.
In 1990, serving as a Deputy Sheriff with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Donald Northcross was deeply troubled by the fate of too many young African-American males. Too many were being incarcerated or worse yet…were the victims of needless homicides. Northcross, determined to do something, was driven by a passion to reduce the high rates of homicide and incarceration that were impacting too many African-American boys’ lives. Fortunately, his passion led to action and the founding of the OK (Our Kids) Program. Today – more than 25 years later – the OK Program is a national leadership development model that continues to impact the lives of African-American boys and the men who are their mentoring partners.
It all began in Rancho Cordova, California, which at the time was one of the most violent neighborhoods in Sacramento County. Northcross recruited, trained and organized African-American men to mentor boys 12 to 18 years old. From the start, he had a singular focus and a steadfast vision – reduce the homicides and incarcerations of black males through a mentoring program that develops their leadership capacity, critical thinking skills, and promotes academic excellence.
As a Deputy Sheriff, Northcross – who became known as Dep to the OK boys and mentors – also saw the OK Program as a vehicle for establishing and improving relationships between police and the African-American communities they serve. Today, as leaders from urban communities seek ways to develop that trust, the OK Program remains a beacon of community-wide cooperation and collaboration.
Now in six cities, the OK Program continues to recruit African-American men as mentors. In 2013, it launched the “100,000 Strong National African-American Male Mentor Initiative” with a goal to enlist 100,000 African-American male mentors for the OK Program. The increased number of mentors will fuel the Program’s national expansion… especially to those cities that have recently experienced unrest following the shootings of African-American males, and more importantly, to those communities that want to implement solutions for improving police community relationships.
As it works with school districts, the law enforcement and faith-based communities, the OK Program has grown to become the longest running mentorship program focused specifically on African-American boys. The vision that Dep had 25 years ago for helping African-American boys live long productive lives is needed today more than ever.
Learn how to get involved with our national expansion here.
In 1988, Donald Northcross graduated from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Academy and was voted the most inspirational recruit by his peers. His natural leadership abilities continued to surface when he became the first President of Sacramento County’s Black Deputy Sheriff’s Association two years after joining the force.
As president of the Black Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Northcross centered his focus on taking action around the devastating impact that high rates of incarceration and homicides of young black men was having on African-American families. In 1990, his growing desire to reverse the grim statistics that young black boys faced led him to found the OK (Our Kids) Program, an innovative mentoring program that organized black men from the community to work with young black males living in Rancho Cordova, California, which at the time was one of the most violent inner city neighborhoods in Sacramento County.
In 1991, as a result of the monumental success of the OK Program, he was selected as California’s Outstanding Young Public Safety Officer of The Year. A year later, he was recognized by President George Bush as the 945th Daily Point of Light For The Nation awardee. In 1993, he received a resolution from Willie Brown, then the Speaker of the California State Assembly, for work through the OK Program, as well as the first “Community Service Award” ever given by California Governor Pete Wilson.
In 1994, the OK Program was not only credited with the increased academic performance of the OK boys, it was also credited for the monumental reduction of crime and gang violence in Rancho Cordova, where most of the OK young men resided. Northcross was named the 1994 recipient of CBS-TV/San Francisco’s Jefferson Award and the 1994 Sacramento Safe Street Hero of The Year.
A much sought after speaker and consultant, Northcross was one of numerous experts assembled in Little Rock, Arkansas, to discuss President Obama’s 2010 Fatherhood Initiative. A strong advocate of the role that black men must play in solving the problems currently plaguing the African-American community, he also served as Dean of Men at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.
Brian Miller is an alumni of the OK Program who brings over 13 years of experience working in higher education (Student Affairs), program development, marketing, and fundraising. Prior to his appointment as the National Executive Director, Brian served as the Dean of Students at Arkansas Baptist College where he was the Chief Student Affairs Officer managing up to 13 departments during his eight years at the college. Brian worked closely with the president, college leadership, and community leaders to assist the school with a 200% enrollment increase. He was a leader in the out of state recruitment efforts which led to a $15-million-dollar increase in the schools operating budget.
Brian created several initiatives, organizations, and administered community youth programs during the past 10 years. He is an experienced grant writer, contract negotiator, and visionary who sits on several boards and committees. He believes in servant leadership and his passion to help young people is also his God given purpose.
As the Executive Director, Brian intends to expand the program to include higher education initiatives, increased corporate and organizational partnerships, and OK Program chapters throughout the country. As a 1995 graduate of the OK Program, he understands the commitment, benefits, operational processes and most importantly the need for the OK Program in our communities. He is living proof that, “EVERYONE can change with the right mentor”.
Petri Hawkins Byrd is the Bailiff on JUDGE JUDY, which has been the #1 show in daytime for seven consecutive seasons. The Emmy Award-winning program returned for its 21st season on Monday, September 12, 2016.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Hawkins Byrd (“Byrd”) received his Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1989. During this time, Byrd worked as a court officer in the Brooklyn Family Court system. In 1986, he was transferred to the Manhattan Family Court system, where he worked on a rotating basis with all the judges, including Judge Judith Sheindlin. “I was never bored in her courtroom,” he said. “Her get-to-the-point style didn’t always sit well with the litigants, and there were times she was definitely glad to have me around.”
In 1990, Byrd relocated to San Mateo, Calif., to serve as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshall. Three years later, he accepted an offer to work as a student counselor at Monta Vista High School in Santa Clara, Calif. After reading a story about Judge Sheindlin’s new book and upcoming television show in a 1996 Liz Smith column, Byrd decided to send a letter congratulating the judge, and jokingly asked if she would be interested in having him serve at her side again. To his surprise, Judge Sheindlin returned Byrd’s letter with a phone call and offered him the job.
The move to northern California also brought him in touch with OK Program founder Donald Northcross and for the past 12 years Byrd has served on as the Co-Chair of the National OK Program. Byrd’s passion for African-American boys is evident in his service and willingness to discuss the issues facing our young men. Byrd is on a mission to change the dynamics that exist in our communities between law enforcement and black men but he’s just as passionate about black people taking responsibility for our own challenges and that is why his service to the OK Program is so important.
In addition to his work on JUDGE JUDY, Byrd has appeared numerous times on stage as a stand-up comedian and actor. He has also acted in films, television and commercials, as well as provided voiceover work for radio, television and video games. Byrd’s success has also made him a sought-after motivational speaker. In his spare time, he sings and writes music and poetry.
Major brings over 18 years of years of diversified management experience in business to business services companies. At the age of 19, Major graduated from the University of California at Davis and continued to overachieve, running two Inc. 500 companies and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth in company exits before the age of 35.
Major got his start running a start-up division of a business to business technology and professional services company and quickly grew its revenue from $8MM to $30MM in three years. He later founded and served as the CEO of another B2B services company, growing its revenue from $0 to $46MM in eight years, and generating a 16x EBITDA exit. In his spare time, Major tends to his restaurant, which has profitably grown 2.5x in revenue over the past three years. Major has managed the acquisition and integration processes of six companies ranging from tuck-ins to the merger of comparably sized players. Perhaps most importantly, Major has mentored several executives who have gone on to run and manage their own enterprises using the processes and decision making skills that have made him successful.
Roughly 600 young men are thriving in OK Chapters in Indianapolis, IN; Kansas City, KS; Kansas City, MO; Little Rock, AR; Monroe, LA; and Oakland, CA. These are just some of the incredible outcomes from the local OK Chapters, with focus on our core tenants:
1) Academic Achievement
2) Respect for Self and Others
3) Community Engagement.
Read testimonials from our program here.
Kansas City, Kansas
The OK Program in Kansas City began in the summer of 2011 with 15 African-American young men. As of May 2015, the number of participants has reached 212. The two OK Program schools include Coronado Middle School and F. L. Schlagle High School.
OK PROGRAM IMPACT
Coronado Middle School*
9 OK Program participants achieved a final 4.0 GPA
38 participants achieved a final 3.0 GPA or better
75% of 8th grade participants ended with a 2.5 GPA or better
Over the past two school years, 42 OK participants have gone on to attend Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, a nationally ranked magnet school in Kansas City, Kansas, which prepares students for high-level academic and creative pursuits.
*Schlagle High School statistics are unavailable at the time of this writing.
Little Rock, Arkansas
At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, there were 90 African-American young men enrolled in the OK Program’s Hall Chapter, which includes Forest Heights Middle School and Hall High School. The Central Chapter – Central High School – ended the school year with 103 participants.
OK PROGRAM IMPACT
Hall High School
42% of the high school students maintained at least a 2.5 GPA or better
25% of the high school students maintained at least a 3.0 GPA
2.3 was the overall GPA recorded for the high school students
Forest Heights Middle School
50% of the middle school students maintained at least 2.5 GPA or better
30% of the middle school students maintained a 3.0 GPA or better
2.5 was the overall GPA recorded for the middle school students
Central High School
38% of the high school students maintained at least a 2.5 GPA or better
22% of the high school students maintained at least a 3.0 GPA or better
2.26 was the overall GPA recorded for the high school students
Dunbar Middle School
56% of the middle school students maintained at least a 2.5 GPA or better
33% of the middle school students maintained at least a 3.0 GPA
2.8 was the overall GPA recorded for the middle school students
Monroe’s OK Program had 70 young men participating in the program during the 2013-2014 school year.
OK PROGRAM IMPACT
1 OK Program participants achieved a final 4.0 GPA
21% of the students maintained at least a 3.0 GPA or better
77% of the students maintained at least a 2.5 GPA or better
67% of the boys avoided suspension during the 2015 school year
Only 8 OK participants out of 70 had some type of negative contact with police
Spring Semester 2015
The OK Program had a huge impact on the West Oakland Middle School campus where 95 percent of the African-American males at the school were enrolled in the OK Program.
OK PROGRAM IMPACT
60% of the students maintained at least a 2.0 GPA or better
35% of the students maintained at least a 2.5 GPA or better
Only 1.8% of OK boys received school suspensions
Only 1.2% involved in a fight
0% of OK participants were arrested