Mentoring instead of monitoring is how former Calumet High School basketball star Will Green said he prefers to help juvenile offenders and at-risk youths.
Green took the initials "M.P." from his mother, Muriel Pipkins, and he and his wife, Becky, named their organization Mentoring Positives. Their center is located in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood in Madison, Wis.
Muriel Pipkins was a single parent who raised her family in Gary's Small Farms neighborhood. She died in 2003 of breast cancer at the age of 46, and her son not only wanted to honor his mother's name, but also her positive influence on his life.
"My mom raised us and it was tough, but she made sure were pretty grounded," Green said. "I just wish she was here to share this with her."
He and Becky met while they were students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He played for Carl Traicoff at Calumet High School, another figure who played a big influence in Green's life.
"He was always on you to do everything the right way," Green said. "I was able to use basketball to better my life."
Mentoring Positives works uses basketball and other activities to help at-risk youth develop social and job skills.
"I know what it was like to be raised without a father, like many of these kids are," Green said. "I can still play (basketball) and if I am out there with a basketball, I think I am more than a social worker. I think they see me in a different light and I can communicate with these kids."
He said the proactive approach will work better in the long run if it can keep a kid out of trouble or jail. Many of his kids are referred by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
Mentoring Positives just celebrated its eighth anniversary.
"Some kids really need the help and that person to get them in the right direction," Green said. "It is a challenge, but we want to get the parent involved if possible. It is a community thing."
The program also teaches its participants about consumerism, production and marketing as they make "Off the Block Salsa." Green said the kids plant and grow their own chili peppers in a garden. They weed, water and then harvest the crop, then make the salsa.
"They get to see how a product is made from the beginning to the sale point," Green said. "It helps them get an understanding of business as well as the responsibility of the cost, canning and selling."