We provide support for today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders by giving them opportunities to grow, learn and share.

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The mission is to empower youth to enhance their education, develop life skills and overcome challenges.


Brothers Rise Up is available to young males in
3rd – 11th grades and focuses on monitoring and improving the participants’ academic performance, attendance, and behavior. BRU offers a curriculum and strategies based on character development, social skills, leadership, academic excellence and career development. Young men who participate through 8th grade are provided with continued support throughout their high school years with additional college readiness support.


Brothers Rise Up envisions youth to have the power to rise above life’s challenges and create vital, better lives for themselves and their communities in the present and for the future.

Need for Mentoring

There is a need for additional support for young men of color, especially those that come from a single parent home and first generation. State assessment results show an achievement gap, especially when comparing numbers of students “meeting and exceeding” the standard (e.g. English Language Arts). Additionally, the chronic absenteeism rate for our young men of color has been higher than that of other students.

History and Purpose:

The Brothers Rise Up Innovative Leadership Experience (BRU) was established by Jim Cook of Midwest Sports Academy to help minority male students in need of mentoring and support. This is a multi-year initiative that is meant to provide long-term support and guidance for students throughout their years in school, starting in 3rd grade. In 2019, Brothers Rise Up was introduced in School District U-46. In 2022-23, more than 230 young men (Grades 3-10) in 29 schools are participants in BRU.

How Does Brothers Rise Up Work?
Brothers Rise Up is a leadership initiative to develop the character and skills of young males. It is not considered to be an intervention. A school staff member may nominate a student, using the following criteria

Criteria and Eligibility
Males (in Grade 3-up) benefitting most from this leadership experience are those who meet some of the criteria below:

  • Demonstrate leadership potential and make smart decisions
  • Would benefit from academic support
  • Would benefit from social skills development
  • Would benefit from a positive male influence/role model in his life
  • Not already receiving special services from the school district


A student being nominated may need assistance and support in one or more of the following areas: 

  • Attendance concerns
  • Attitude strengthening
  • Family matters
  • Peer relationship building
  • Self-esteem elevation
  • Social skills development

 Once a student is nominated, his parent/guardian is contacted to hear more about Brothers Rise Up and to be asked for permission for the student to participate. The Champion of Character (BRU adult leader/staff member) also speaks with the student prior to including him in activities. The young men meet at their school as a group (of up to ten) once a week for approximately 30 minutes during the day. Groups are facilitated by Mr. Cook or other Champions of Character adult leaders.
The confidentiality policy is, “What is said in the room stays in room,” and we require that all students and facilitators honor this policy by not repeating what others say about themselves or their lives.


Benefits to the Young Men
An intended outcome of BRU is ensuring the students’ ongoing participation in the years ahead by building relationships among their peers at school and in their communities. The reward is to recognize the young men for their accomplishments and provide educational opportunities (e.g. field trips and college tours) for many that may not have the resources or experiences.


BRU provides opportunities for participants to engage in cultural enrichment and fine art activities while demonstrating sportsmanship and athletic skills and increase their level of extra-cultural activities.

 The intended outcomes of interactions between the Champions of Character and the participants are to increase support to youth during the time of personal or social stress, support decision-making, access support with academic and promote opportunities for career awareness and mentoring. The developmental assets to be gained for student participants are to have a connection with a caring adult and to believe they can be successful, make good decisions and have a bright future.

 Since 2020, summer sessions have been provided. The students also meet guest speakers and, when possible, take field trips. BRU provides many opportunities to develop relationships with other students, meet adult role models, and share experiences outside of school that keep them focused on becoming leaders. 

Program Attributes and Values:

Through character development, Brothers Rise Up participants gain the ability to deal with life’s challenges and go on to flourish throughout life. Young males will be able to demonstrate positive behavior traits and the ability to reflect on their thoughts and feelings.     

Social Skills
Social interaction and communication are stressed. Students explore social rules and relationships that are created and communicated in verbal and nonverbal ways.

Academic Excellence
Academic excellence is the process by which students are motivated to learn, think and excel with their educational achievements and have a positive influence in their community.

Career Development
Our focus is to guide students to begin thinking about and planning for their future career. We encourage each one to seek guidance from parents, teachers, principals and career counselors and to choose a career according to his talent, interest and financial resources. We review with them once they express an interest in a career.

We share with each student that: “Leadership is not about you. It’s about investing in the growth of others

Your Identity
Stop and think before you act and speak.
Doing the Right Thing + No Reward = Expected
Life is all about how you handle yourself

People Are Talking

“Watching these young men learn and grow while making connections, building relationships/friends, and enhancing experiences that possibly would not have been available to them was an accomplishment within itself.”
Champion of Character Leader,
Summer 2021
“He enjoys being part of the program. He comes home talking about how he feels part of something positive.”
- Parent
We started this program to see children accomplish their dreams.”
- Jim Cook
“Brothers Rise Up was a group that allowed me and other students to socialize. It gave us a small break from some classes to talk about feelings and other things. People came in and talked about their career, from money to working out. Brothers Rise Up inspired me to pursue the dream of becoming a police officer. Thank you.” .
- BRU student