The YWCA Knoxville is breaking barriers to change the game by launching the only gender based violence prevention program for young men in East Tennessee, and the only one of it’s kind in the United States. 

GameChangers is a program based in the heart of East Tennessee which targets middle-school boys by teaching young men about domestic violence, sexual assault and how they can prevent violence against women and girls. 

“I always tell them you can’t change the game from sitting on the sidelines,” Kendrick Tate, GameChangers mentor and coordinator, said. “We discuss domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment, bystander intervention and other ways to prevent instances of domestic violence before they even happen.” 

Tate said the program goes beyond what happens in the learning spaces at the YWCA, and is more like planting a seed in the boys’ hearts, that will continue to pour out for many years into the future. 

“It’s for future generations,” Tate said. “We want our men to be able to educate not only their friends, but also for when they get older so they can pass it on to their sons, and they can show them that this is how we help women, aide them and keep them safe, so they don’t ever have to witness and hopefully, never go through domestic violence.” 

For Laterrious Johnson, a high-school participant in this year’s fall semester of GameChangers, it wasn’t until he began the program that he really understood the complexities of domestic violence. 

“Now that I have heard and listened and now understand how domestic violence works, I kind of take that into my own hands and spread it around to other people so they will know as well,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said being a GameChanger means he has the power to positively impact his peers, whether on the basketball court or in the classroom. 

“It means to me that I can change people’s lives, I can change my own and as me being a game-changer, I am able to help other people,” Johnson said. 

For his mentor Tate, his purpose began by pouring into the the young people in his community.  

“My passion lies just within the youth. I always saw myself as a difference maker and “Game Changers” kind of fit my mode. I want to uplift and teach men how to change the game.” 

Tate said, “here at the YWCA, we’re changing lives but we’re making them better for the near future, so come be a game-changer.” 

Tate’s co-worker and coordinator for the GameChangers program, Don Black, said this is one best ways to have positive conversations about such a stigmatized topic. 

“This program allows men to figure out some of the right answers to these topics, without learning from peers on the bus or in the hallways,” Black said. “It also provides a mentorship aspect, and studies show that boys with a positive, male role model have a more positive life outcome than those that don’t.” 

Both Black and Tate encourage men to get involved and serve in a mentorship role to continue to impact young men in the local community. 

Since 2015, the GameChangers program has had more than 170 different participants. For the 2018 school year, the program has 21 mentors, serving 15 different groups in 11 sites across the East Tennessee area. 

Through evaluation, GameChangers is a one of kind program throughout the country, and is funded through a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. Other local partnerships of this organization include the four original partners of the 2015 program: 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of East Tennessee, Emerald Youth Foundation and the Knoxville Urban League. 

Since the founding of the program, the YWCA has added six more partners, Great Schools Partnership, City of Knoxville Save Our Sons Initiative, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee, Knox County Schools, Knox County District Attorney General’s Office and Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking