In affluent Marin County, 50% of African Americans live in Marin City & 30% live in San Quentin Prison. The average Marin City resident makes 62% less than the county’s average annual income. The community is plagued by unemployment, crime, poor education and no local grocery store. Where children lack hope, they lack health and well-being.
Our solution is The Defenders Paper Company, a social enterprise led by Marin City boys in middle and high school. This program changes long-term behavioral health by teaching Black boys to become men. As entrepreneurs, they learn to provide for, and to "defend," their family and community.
The Defenders Paper Company teaches boys how to work, dress, speak, present, sell, collaborate, and show respect for themselves and others. Defenders learn that they must work in order for their families to eat, live and thrive. Each boy:
- Develops a healthy, life-long work ethic to succeed in school, home and jobs.
- Creates change by demonstrating the courage to solve problems.
- Leads by example in making their African American community a good, safe, healthy place to live.
- Uses his own experience to become a mentor, teacher and role model to younger boys.
The Defenders motto is: “Each one teach one.” As each boy makes a sale or learns something that makes him feel better, he shares his story with another boy in the community. Marin City attracts attention for poverty and violence. We, especially, need to share stories of success with young people in this community. Each member of The Defenders helps another boy to have hope and to make healthy choices.