mentoring ManUp Iowa is certified by the Iowa Mentoring Partnership (IMP)

Lack of Opportunity
  • Today, 46 million youth live in the United States. Sadly, 16 million of them don't have access to a trusted person that they can go to for guidance. Shockingly, 9 million of those youth are highly at risk of academic failure, delinquency matters, or both. [i]
  • Iowa ranks as the 2nd worst state for citizens having access to adequate mental health services, and is the 3rd worst state for incarcerating African American males disproportionately. [ii]
  • Similarly, Iowa's capital city (Des Moines), is ranked the 9th worst city for African Americans to live in. [iii]
  • More than 20 million U.S. youth live in a home without a father. Millions more have fathers who are physically present, but emotionally absent. The video link below is an 80 second video about the very real trail of destruction caused by fatherlessness . [iv]
When communities suffer from lack of opportunity, disproportionality, fatherlessness, and other definitive factors, the results are catastrophic. In fact, these issues serve as the root cause for why manhood in America has gone from being known as a "problem" to "a crisis of epidemic proportions." [v]
Pictured: A CNN article about the crisis.
At a young age, boys learn false ideations or stereotypes about manhood. These ideas become beliefs reinforced through the American media and our very culture itself. The uncomfortable reality that Americans are seemingly accepting everyday is that our boys are not often coming to the realization that great men are judged through their character and actions, rather than their muscles, money and fame. Why are our boys not coming to the first conclusion?







Target Population

ManUp Iowa Programming is designed to specifically target pre-adolescent, adolescent and teenage male youth who are between the ages of 7 and 17, and who may be at-risk of academic failure, delinquency matters, or both.

Although the program is specialized to serve youth with specific issues, the program opens its doors to youth with a wide range of needs, including those who may benefit from access to a positive male role model and a pro-social environment. The program also puts strong emphasis on serving minority youth due to the importance of the State of Iowa to address disproportionality factors within its criminal justice system.

Historically, the program has seen an equal number of youth referred for behavioral issues as it has for youth who are referred needing access to a positive male role model and or a pro-social environment. This shows the programs current level of success with serving a diverse target population, ensuring positive outcomes for youth with a variety of potential needs.


ManUp Iowa Programming is strategically designed to be 100% voluntary for all of its participants. When youth are initially referred, they are "highly encouraged" to attend two weeks (2 groups), and may have the option of continuing from there. The proposed statement is supported by three years of data that suggests when the option is voluntary, 8.5 out of 10 youth will choose to continue after two weeks; and on average, they will participate in the program for a total of 225-300 days. Historically, the voluntary option has led to higher success rates versus when youth are referred via court order.

Male Responsibility Programming

ManUp Iowa has two fully certified male-health educators who are trained in the evidenced-based "Male Responsibility Curriculum"; Wise Guys. [vi]

Wise Guys webpage:

ManUp Iowa was founded with a purpose of serving as a community resource, and as an alternative approach to typical practices targeting male youth who may be at risk of academic failure and or delinquency matters.

With a foundation deeply rooted in prevention and a program model emphasizing innovation and evidence based practices, ManUp Iowa Mentors effectively empower each program mentee with the values, skills, and support needed to prepare them for manhood successfully.

Mission Statement
"ManUp Iowa empowers young men to make positive life choices, so that they may go on to live healthy and successful lives at home, at school, and in the community."

At ManUp Iowa we believe every boy is born with the ability to play an exponentially important and diverse role within society. We also believe that they are deserving of an opportunity that successfully prepares them for manhood. It doesn't matter what they may look like, or where they may live, and certainly not how many resources their family may or may not have.

Similarly, we believe that by educating young men with the values and skills correlated with making positive life choices in the real world, youth who've struggled in the past and who've been deemed the terms "broken, at risk, and disadvantaged", are able to rise up and transform into healthy, respectable and successful young men. More importantly, however, we believe in the strength of our community and understand we must unite together to solve the manhood crisis before any more damage is done.

Make no mistake, the crisis is as real as it's preventable. Every youth deserves an opportunity to succeed.
ManUp Iowa Official Partnerships
ManUp Iowa Partnerships

Each ManUp Iowa Partnership has been secured for strategic reasons based on two specific purposes:

  • To provide enrolled youth with additional opportunities that will aide them with their educational and social growth
  • To provide each youth access to additional support systems and community resources that will ensure they have the best chance possible for long term success
Mental Health Collaborations

Overview: It is known to be rare for mentoring organizations to collaborate with mental health providers at even a minimum level. This however, is not the case with the ManUp Iowa Mentoring Program which actively collaborates with Thriving Families Counseling Services (since 2015) and Next Step Counseling Services (since 2013). The collaborative efforts were originally aligned to evolve as part of the overall comprehensive community resource or umbrella that ManUp Iowa works to further develop for youth and families. An innovative and unique way to ensure youth and families have convenient access to a plethora of urgently needed resources that are strategically linked together.

Due to the reality that most youth referred to ManUp Iowa have significant cases of past or current trauma, youth often need more than a mentor to help solve the underlining issues that are deeply rooted within their entire social, emotional, and behavioral framework. On average, 80%-90% of all referred youth have prior and or current mental health diagnoses and often exhibit a variety of social, emotional, and behavioral issues that ultimately require extraordinary efforts to treat. The result of the collaborative efforts allow for ManUp Iowa to evolve as a resource that is holistic in nature, versus the alternative and common practice of band-aiding gushing wounds that need complete care to fully heal.

Pictured: Each section of the star shows a picture of one of the Programs multiple elements.
Pro-Social Environment

ManUp Iowa Programming provides a pro-social environment composed of a positive peer culture where positive reinforcement is often a main tactic.

Youth find comfort in knowing they are not alone in their daily struggles. In fact, it's often reported that participants make friends at ManUp Programming which allows for the positive peer culture to transfer further into the community and grow outwards.

Program Incentives for Youth

Incentives have been strategically added to increase the probability youth will stay committed and engaged. Incentives primarily include:

  • Certificates/Plaques: Provided at the end of each of the four milestones
  • Custom Awards: Provided to Peer Mentors
  • Jobs: Mentees often are excited when learning about the possibility of one day working for either ManUp Iowa as a professional mentor, or for one of ManUp Iowas partners
  • YMCA Memberships: Free YMCA memberships (4 months) are provided to youth who stay involved in the program. Youth may have the membership renewed if they continue in the Program
  • Food: It is a consistent theme to feed youth during every weekly mentoring meeting. Whether it's a snack or dinner, or if it's during a group, special event, or graduation ceremony, youth never go unfed when they are at ManUp
  • Gifts/Prizes: The care and compassion shown by the ManUp Iowa Team and Community ensures that all active youth are provided special gifts such as gift cards during specific times of the year. Youth have occasional access to special prizes for going above and beyond the call of duty and helping others. In essence, youth are rewarded for doing the right thing which teaches them values like the fact hard work eventually pays off
  • Positive Reinforcement & Competition: As youth rise up through the ranks and gain status, a healthy competition is enabled. Youth prove through graduating increasingly difficult milestones that their actions are a result of a change in thinking which is supported by the simple fact the program is voluntary. Voiding any concerns that youth in ManUp would exhibit the; "fake it to make it" tactic that youth often attempt in detention/group care
Mental Health/ Mentoring Mix (Hybrid Model)
Pictured: Mike Koch, the Clinical Director of NSCS facilitates a therapy group for ManUp Mentees enrolled at a Hybrid site.
Pictured: NSCS Therapist Bryon Little facilitates a therapy group for youth enrolled at a Hybrid site.
Bryon and Mike are two of four male therapists that have facilitated therapy groups at "Hybrid Model" sites.
  • Voluntary: Based on family choice and needs. (Historically, 90% of all youth referred have parents/guardians opt for this model)
  • Assessment: Must be completed prior to enrollment
  • Therapy Group: Therapy group is facilitated by a licensed therapist and is directly followed by the ManUp Iowa Mentoring Program
  • The Hybrid Model option enhances the mentoring component by providing youth with the powerful experience of two preventative group
Mentee/Mentor Matches
Pictured: An article about the ManUp Iowa Mentoring Program. [vii]
Pictured: Past and present ManUp Iowa Team members.

ManUp Iowa has an experienced and diverse team of male role models whose passion runs deep for leading young men towards a brighter future. The majority of active mentors have full time careers within social services, and are serving part time with ManUp Iowa. The formula of hiring mentors with professional experience and combining it with a diverse group of volunteer mentors, provides the program with a dynamic team that is able to deliver positive and life changing outcomes.

Individualized Experiences
Pictured: A mentee is meeting with a mentor at Hoyt Middle School.
Pictured: A mentor meets with a mentee at a Hybrid Model site.

Match ratio: Mentors are matched with 2-4 mentees at each site.

Individual sessions consist of topics ranging from Wise Guys activities to discussions customized to a mentee's immediate needs. Mentees may ask to meet with their mentor at anytime during weekly groups.

Small Groups
Pictured: Mentees are meeting with their mentor at Hiatt Middle School.

Weekly groups often consist of mentors meeting in small groups with matched mentees. Group topics shift from Wise Guys curriculum activities to customized discussions depending on each mentee's immediate needs.

Large Groups
Pictured: A large group meeting at a Hybrid Model site. Therapy group is over and youth are eating dinner with mentors
Pictured: Large group meetings at Next Step Counseling and Hoyt Middle School.

Typically, every other week consists of a large group meeting where all mentor matches meet together to discuss Wise Guys topics and other subjects related to the ManUp Iowa Mission. Large groups may occasionally host a guest speaker.

Guest Speakers
Pictured: Judge Witt presents to a group of mentees at East High

On average, a guest speaker presents once a month to each ManUp site on a topic from Wise Guys that they have expertise in, or topics that align with the ManUp Iowa Mission. To date, 60 plus guest speakers have presented to ManUp Mentees.

Quarterly Special Events
Pictured: A quarterly event where ManUp Iowa joined forces with the Scheels Sporting Goods team to teach Mentees to fish at the WDM Library pond. [viii]

Every three months, program participants and mentors from multiple sites are invited to attend a special outing. Special events range from Sports Games to Volunteer activities and more.

Graduation Ceremonies

Every 15 weeks, ceremonies are hosted by the ManUp Iowa Team for mentees who've successfully completed a program milestone. Youth and their families are invited to join in honoring new graduates.

Pictured: Several mentors and mentees are seen celebrating as a youth graduates a Milestone and receives his plaque. [ix]
Newly enrolled youth and their parents are provided this Milestone System document to familiarize themselves with the Programs timeframes and expectations.

The ManUp Iowa Milestone System serves as the foundation of the ManUp Iowa Mentoring Program. In essence, the four milestones provide a systematic sequential model designed to provide clarity and consistency around both the timelines, and the expectations of the program. They also serve as a way to measure youths progress related to outcomes that partners like United Way and the DMPS are able to track and assess.

Each milestone lasts for 15 weeks and concludes with a graduation ceremony.
Milestones progressively increase in difficulty, leading to higher expectations and greater challenges for youth as they move up in the Program.
Milestone 1: Engagement
Pictured: The Clinical Director of Next Step is seen having fun with youth at a graduation ceremony.

Weeks 1-15: Newly enrolled youth immediately enter into a supportive, compassionate, and loyal community.

Milestone 2: Accountability
Pictured: DMPD Officers who facilitate the DMPD 2nd chance program are seen with ManUp Iowa Mentors and Mentees at the Polk County Jail waiting for a tour of the facility.

Weeks 16-31: Through the programs comprehensive elements, and a curriculum focused on male responsibility, youth learn to take accountability for past and future actions.

Milestone 3: Responsibility
Pictured: Mentees are seen participating in a large group discussion about curriculum topics focused on personal responsibility.

Weeks 31-45: From week one, to week 60, the importance of male responsibility is consistently reinforced through multiple program elements. The most effective tool for educating youth about male responsibility in the ManUp Iowa Arsenal may very well be the evidenced based curriculum Wise Guys. The curriculum is entirely focused on male responsibility and is facilitated by ManUp Iowa Mentors who are trained and certified as Male Health Educators.

Milestone 4: Leadership
Pictured: As youth reach the 4th Milestone, they have an opportunity to receive real life leadership experience and training by serving as a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor.

Weeks 46-60: As youth transform into an improved version of self, they more frequently serve as positive role models for their peers. Naturally, this transformation is also when they begin to find themselves in a leadership role for the very first time.

Youth who work through each program milestone gain the skills and the confidence that allow them to have an edge over other youth. Effectively allowing them to dream bigger and fight harder for the dreams they now realize they can someday reach. Inevitably preparing each youth to become one of the leaders of tomorrow.


The video below is a powerful example of a youth who was referred to the program for behavioral issues, and is now a success story. In the 7 second clip, he shares his future goal of joining the ManUp Iowa Team to help mentees/friends. [x]

Video link:


Milestone Certificates
Milestone Certificates: 1 - 4
Peer Mentor Awards

When Peer Mentors are officially activated, they are provided a 5th certificate and a custom award. The custom award is actually more of a suprise gift designed to teach youth the lesson that when one works hard and does the right thing, it will pay off in the long run.

Peer Mentor Badge

ManUp Iowa launched its Peer Mentor Program in the spring of 2016. Out of the dozens of youth who had reached Milestone 4 and were active in the Program at the time of the launch, only three were nominated as the first batch of ManUp Iowa Peer Mentors. Two of the three made it through the training and were activated as official ManUp Iowa Peer Mentors in the middle of October 2016.

Pictured: Jason, a sophomore from Roosevelt High School was officially activated as a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor on 10/22/16.
Pictured: Caine, a freshman at East High School was officially activated as a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor on 10/13/16.
Pictured: A ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor is seen helping attend a ManUp Iowa booth during an open house at a new school site. Peer Mentors help engage new youth in the program and serve as ambassadors for the program as well.

After tasting success, and earning the trust and respect from adults & peers alike, youth develop a hunger for something greater. Therefore, ManUp Iowa designed an additional opportunity as an incentive for youth who have the drive to challenge themselves to a level they never before thought possible. The opportunity is called the: ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor Program.

ManUp Iowa Peer Mentors eventually go on to serve along side the ManUp Iowa Team by serving as a Peer Mentor for new and or struggling mentees. Not only does this provide incentive for Peer Mentors to remain in the program, it also provides them with an opportunity to continue to grow as both a leader and a young man. However, the most important impact that may result from a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentors role may be the fact that new and or struggling youth whom may be hard to engage by adult mentors, may relate more to the Peer Mentor and therefore continue in the program long enough to change their thinking.

"Peer Mentorship is real life leadership experience that ManUp Iowa youth have at their finger tips. An invaluable experience that is not readily available to the majority of young men in K-12." - Director of ManUp Iowa

ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor Council

When youth reach Milestone 4, they may be nominated by the ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor Council to become a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor candidate. After the nomination process is over, candidates start a course in leadership training that will prepare them to become effective Peer Mentors.

The first two ManUp Iowa Peer Mentors to become officially activated were also awarded the honor of becoming the first two youth to serve on the ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor Council. Youth who serve on the council, along with adult team members from ManUp Iowa, convene monthly to discuss new Peer Mentor candidates. Active Peer Mentors also have a role of serving as part of the nomination ceremony when new candidates are awarded a certificate that officially acknowledges them as a Peer Mentor in training.

Pictured: One of the youth who serves as a co-chair on the Peer Mentor Council is seen handing a certificate to a new Peer Mentor candidate.
Peer Mentor Training: Requirements for Completion

ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor Training consists of a total of 5 hours mixed of the following:

  • Orientation
  • Shadowing ManUp Mentors
  • Curriculum work
  • Observation sessions
  • Testing


My son was very broken in the beginning, because he had no male role models, no one to look up to and found hope in ManUp. He looks forward to going to group now. He leads other kids now and he is no longer broken. "Zach" his team including Mike his counselor have given me my son back. Words can't express my gratitude to all of them. - Krysta
Pictured: A priceless moment captured of Krysta's son shaking hands with ManUp Mentors as he graduates a program milestone.

Youth who successfully complete all four program milestones, and who officially begin service as a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor have completed the entire program.

It is at this moment, that the seed that was planted almost a year ago, is ready to be replanted
Effectively starting a new cycle of opportunity as each Peer Mentor begins the process of empowering new mentees with the knowledge to make positive life choices
The stigmas youth were once called such as; "broken" and "at risk", evaporate into a new found confidence that allows them to triumphantly move beyond the past trauma by no longer allowing it to hold them back. Guided by a strong moral compass, each young man inevitably goes on to possess the same characteristics and values that great men and leaders have within their DNA
This powerful cycle of change serves to strengthen the community and break negative generational cycles as more youth transition to adulthood from the role of a ManUp Iowa Peer Mentor. As each young man goes on to lead a healthy and successful life, leaving a positive impact on the community wherever he may go, we are left knowing two things. That all young men deserve an opportunity to succeed through preventative services such as mentoring, and that the "ability to change is within all of us"
#Driven #Resilient #Successful
Final Thoughts

You may now know the answer to what fuels the passion within the men who are part of the ManUp Iowa Mission. The simple realization that any boy can reach any dream he may choose, when he's provided the resources and guidance on how to get there. In essence, laying a path for changing our entire society as we move forward together with more success stories than failures. The domino effect? We will leave that for you to ponder.

At ManUp Iowa, we embrace the reality that many of these titan size goals can only be accomplished in one way. For this opportunity to be available to all of the deserving youth who are continuously referred, and in order for its voice to grow louder with increased influence, we embrace collaboration and humbly seek the help of those in our community. Individuals who share in our passion and in our hope of a brighter future for the next generation of youth.

"Youth are our societies best hope for a better future." - John F. Kennedy
"A child miseducated, is a child lost." - John F. Kennedy

President Kennedys statements should make us question why we are we not educating our boys about manhood when we know we are in a crisis? After all, what youth learn in history, math, science, economics and any other educational course, doesn't really matter in the long run if they don't know how to live life successfully.

Thank you to all who have supported the ManUp Iowa Mission both past and present. Rest assured, your support is part of something much greater that's growing daily!


Target Measure:
  • FY2015: 69% of DMPS youth who enrolled in the program with a behavioral referral did not increase behavior referrals
  • FY2016: 92% of DMPS youth who enrolled in the program with a behavioral referral did not increase behavioral referrals [xi]
Performance Measures:

Length of Mentor Matches

  • FY2015: The average length of mentor matches in days: 224
  • FY2016: The average length of a mentor match went up to an average of: 302 days [xii]
Contact Us

If you would like to learn more about the ManUp Iowa Mentoring Program, please don't hesitate to reach out to us.

Created By
Zach Smith

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