Growing up in an inner city neighborhood in Toledo, Shawn Mahone avoided trouble by playing basketball at Rogers High School and serving as class president his senior year. He had planned to go into the Marines, but his parents emphasized that college was a viable alternative.
Mahone said that his classes at Owens were great. One instructor, a former suburban police chief, took him under his wing. "Since I was a kid from the inner city, for a guy like him to give me guidance was huge," Mahone said. "Owens helped me see that with a degree, I have options."
Following his graduation in 1990, Mahone worked as a private police officer in a hospital, in an undercover role in corporate security and then as a drill instructor for the Kentucky Department of Corrections. Eventually, job stress prompted him to make a career change to corporate sales.
Although he was very successful, after several years Mahone said "God gave me a vision to come back to Toledo to start Young Men and Women for Change." He created a boot camp program (Behavior Obedience Observational Training) focused on correcting behavior and discipline issues and providing positive role models for youth.
The program currently serves children ages 4-18 from Toledo and surrounding communities, with two-hour sessions held each Saturday for twelve weeks. Parents must attend two sessions and older students serve as leaders and mentors to younger students. "We work to strip away all the negative traits and provide positive reinforcement through stressing exercise, self-discipline, responsibility and accountability," Mahone said.
In the past four years, on a shoestring budget, over 500 children have participated in the program. Mahone is proud of his students' achievements, citing the student who overcame a substance abuse problem to make the honor roll. By teaching children to become responsible members of society, his ultimate goal is to help create economic development in the area.
On April 17, 2010, Mahone and his students will participate in the first "Walk For Youth" day. Walking through Toledo, Sylvania, Maumee, Perrysburg and Rossford, Mahone hopes to raise awareness of the challenges kids face in overcoming behavioral and discipline issues.