Youth Entrepreneurs

In affluent Marin County, 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. Of the 50 middle school boys currently participating from Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. and Willow Creek Academy, 95% lack a father figure in their home. Where children lack hope, they lack health and well-being.

The Defenders impact on teen boys living in poverty

The Defenders’ uses preventative strategies focused on long-term improvement in behaviors and learning. As a community health clinic, Marin City Health & Wellness Center saw the need for a leadership program for middle school boys as part of our integrated healthcare model. The Defenders program leverages our Behavioral Health expertise to provide teens in at-risk communities with role models and year-round mental health services.

Since 2015, teachers report behavior in school improved by 92%, and academic performance improved by 84%. Parents and guardians report 95% improved behaviors at home. As the Portrait of Marin made so clear, health is directly correlated with socioeconomic status: The Defenders program impacts social disparities of health. Read more in our brochure.

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The Defenders Paper Company: a social enterprise

Our solution is The Defenders Paper Company, a social enterprise led by Marin City boys in middle and high school. By teaching boys entrepreneurism, they learn how to work, dress, speak, present, sell, collaborate, and show respect for themselves and others. Each Defender:

  • Develops a healthy, life-long work ethic to success in school, home and jobs.
  • Becomes, and helps other Black youth to become, problem solvers instead of problem starters.
  • Leads by example in making their African American community a good, safe, healthy place to live.
  • Takes his experience and 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.