Each summer 10-12 BYU-Idaho students receive the opportunity to attend the Chicago Urban Studies tour. They spend four days in the Chicago inner city observing the living conditions and lifestyles of young men ages 12-15.
They then fly out to Victor, Idaho, where they spend the next 10 days at a camp and participate in various activities. Grover Wray, director of the program and instructor in the BYU-Idaho Department of Social Work, has been in charge of the program since 2001.
“The program really lets the boys just be boys,” said Wray. “It’s a wonderful and eye-opening experience for both the students and the boys.”
The program started in the late 1980s when an elder’s quorum president and Relief Society president from the Hyde Park Ward in south Chicago noticed they were losing a lot of their youth to the streets. They contacted what was then Ricks College to find out if they could help in some small way. Ever since then the institution has been quietly helping and mentoring these young men.
“The purpose of this program is to help these young men learn life skills,” Wray said. “We want them to prepare for the challenges they’ll face in the future.”
The students create their own mentoring curriculum for the camp in Victor. Wray believes that is part of the reason the program has been such a success.