KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — There is a unique program available in East Tennessee designed to prevent violence in relationships by working directly with a new generation.

The YWCA GameChangers program teaches young men and boys about how they can tell if a relationship is healthy and how to prevent violence in relationships. It also gives them skills for speaking out if they witness violence against women.

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"GameChangers is a two-mentor program for middle school boys, and we cover a plethora of topics when it comes to violence against women," said Kendrick Tate, a mentoring coordinator with the program.

The program pairs small groups of middle school boys with adult male mentors. The mentors then talk about healthy masculinity, victim blaming, and other kinds of topics that children may not have a chance to otherwise talk about. The mentors also help young kids develop bystander intervention skills.

"There's plenty of ways to have comfortable conversations with the boys. We can relate to them, and it's easy to segue into those uncomfortable conversations. And so we're all in a room, and we encourage the boys to ask us questions, to come to us if they want to report or talk to us. We just want them to be comfortable enough to share things with us, questions they may have," said Chris Weathers, a mentor with the program.

Groups meet once per week for 14 weeks, and the program is possible through partnerships with schools, after-school programs and youth-serving organizations. It is funded by a grant from the Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women.

"The more men that we can educate, especially at a young age, the safer that we can keep our women and that is a vital point of our GameChangers program. We want to change the game and not be the status quo, and we want to be the difference-makers in our communities," said Tate.

Mentors need to be men and willing to commit at least two hours per week for at least 14 weeks. They also need to go through a background check and attend a five-hour training, as well as several in-service training sessions. They also need reliable transportation.

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Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can apply online.