Ready to know more about San Diego?


Paying it Forward With Boys to Men Mentoring Network

The personal story that launched the local nonprofit's mission
Boys to Men Mentoring
Courtesy of Boys to Men Mentoring Network

The mentoring that local nonprofit Boys to Men offers holds a special place in co-founder Joe Sigurdson’s heart. It’s the kind of support he wishes he’d had as a youth. Though he credits his parents for giving him the best start in life, instilling humanity and compassion—his father ran a residential foster care treatment center and taught criminal justice—he still ended up on the wrong path. He started drinking as a newlywed at 18-year-olds, then turned to drugs and crime. 

“By the time I was 28, I was at the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous begging for mercy,” he says. “That’s when men came into my life that didn’t care about my backstory, didn’t care where I’d been or what I had done. They just wanted to know how I was going to clean up my mess and move my life forward.”

After rebuilding his life and marriage, Sigurdson wanted to give back. During his recovery, he began attending men’s retreats, at which participants were prompted to focus on accountability, acceptance, and doing what’s right. 

“It was a life-changing experience for me,” he says. “I could have used this at 14, not almost 40.”

Turns out he wasn’t the only one. Sigurdson; his father, Herb; and other retreat participants launched a mentoring program for boys, which evolved into the Boys to Men Mentoring Network.  

After joining up with Craig McClain, the father-son duo founded the program in La Mesa in 1996. Today, their trained mentors work to encourage and empower teenage boys, many of whom do not have a father in their lives—either physically or emotionally—and serve as positive male role models. 

“We’re not there to tell them what to do, just share with them what we’ve done. We’re sharing our experience, strength, and hope with the boys and modeling a healthy, authentic expression of truth and our own realities,” Sigurdson says. “The men create a safe place for the boys to open up, feel safe, and share their stories.”

In 2009, Boys to Men launched an in-school program for at-risk boys. The group mentoring model was a hit with students, parents, and staff and by 2019, had spread to 40 schools across nine school districts in San Diego County. Mentors meet with more than 1,000 boys each week and provide a judgement-free zone to explore their blocks, beliefs, issues, and traumas. The nonprofit also hosts other events, including adventure mountain weekends, on its 16-acre Boys to Men Ranch. 

Some of the boys go on to become mentors. Sigurdson recalls one of Boys to Men’s success stories, a third-generation gang member named Jose who had witnessed a drive-by shooting at only six-years-old.

Jose had been a good student and a high school football standout, but the pull of gang life was too strong, and he was kicked out of school for possessing weapons and drugs. He later enrolled in a continuation program and was introduced to Boys to Men. He was inspired to leave the gang and became a Boys to Men journeyman leader; Jose returned to the high school he was expelled from a few years later to mentor other troubled teens. 

“I’ve been totally blessed and privileged to be in this position where I get to have some kind of participation in somebody else’s success,” Sigurdson says. “That’s an amazing feeling.”

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA