Why We Do What We Do

A letter from the Director of Building Men, Joe Horan —

The Building Men Program was created out of the pain I experienced by trying to live up to the standard on manhood put forth by society.  Society teaches young men that they need to be a good athlete, successful with many women, and have great wealth.  The messages set by society is that we don’t have what it takes, we don’t belong, and I am not loved.  Society teaches boys how to be agreeable or how to be “the man”, not how to stand up and truly be “A” man.  Through the trauma of a broken marriage, I looked at the young men in a middle school I worked at and said to myself, “ I don’t do something these boys are going to experience the same pain.

Looking at the inner-city boys that deal with systemic racism and poverty, my next question was, “Why does their geography have to determine their destiny.”  My refugee students have come over to America for a better life and they are mocked by society.

Faced with these thoughts and questions,  I had asked myself some hard questions about what can I do?  Will these boys experience the same pain?  Will they have the opportunity to live their dreams?  Will they get out of poverty?  Will they have healthy relationships?

“What would I do for my own son?”

My love for my son created the Building Men Program in 2006 to help the boys and young men of Syracuse be “A” man, not “the” man.  “A” man that will be there for his family and community.  A complete man in the areas of physical, social, mental, and spiritual.  I strive to provide my son and the boys the opportunities they need to grow and develop into the man they were born to be, not society’s version.

In the Building Men program, we define a man as “A” S.I.R.  A man with significance, integrity, and values and builds relationships. What we do in a Building Men Program is help the boys connect their passion and their purpose to education.   We walk them through a process to help them find their purpose and passion. They have passionate skills and we need to provide them the opportunity and the avenue in which to express themselves in a positive way.  Their purpose and passion is their significant gift to our community.

Our boys have greatness.  It is the love of the staff and the unity of the brotherhood that helps them overcome the traumas and the poverty in their life to reach their true greatness.  These boys of greatness are potential leaders with natural leadership abilities, that can and will lead in a positive direction given the opportunity that platform and skills to which to do that.

Boys love Building Men Program because we provide a safe space to tell their stories.  We believe in their greatness even when they don’t see it.  It is a place to have fun, learn through games and projects, serve the community, and grow into a band of brothers that will be by their side on their journey in life.

Our Statement of Support for the Black and Brown Community


We stand in solidarity with the Black community and allies across the world, fighting racism, brutality, and hate. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others cry out for scrutiny and action. We must help resist, defeat, and transform systemic racism, impacting educational access, healthcare, and the livelihood of Black and Brown communities.

Our mission for 14 years has been to support Syracuse’s young men in their journey towards becoming  men of character by helping them develop their purpose and passion, instilling integrity in their leadership, and providing them with opportunities to build healthy relationships with others. Building Men Program Inc. strongly believes that developing a fellowship of young males striving to become responsible men will increase their motivation, passion, and leadership, and help to create a positive impact upon the young men’s development.

Right now, our challenge is to discern how to “walk our talk” with even more significant strides. We want to express our appreciation to all working courageously on the front lines fighting against racism, brutality, and hate. Please know that we are committed to taking action.

Building Men Program Inc. vows to examine ourselves individually and as an organization. We stand with the Black and Brown members of our community in demanding justice and equality. As we move forward, we look to take a role in educating our youth. Learn more. Act more. Building Men Program Inc. creates spaces where we can hear the voices of Black and Brown youth with empathy and understanding. We will amplify the voices of our Black and Brown brothers. We will listen to, and hold space for, young men of color and all of our diverse communities.

As the fight for justice and equality continues, we hear YOU, we see YOU, and we stand with YOU. We value and promote your voices, your stories, and, most importantly, YOU! As stated in our creed, we strive to know what’s right, do what’s right, fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

Peace and Brotherhood,
Building Men Board of Directors
Joe Horan
Building Men Program, Executive Director

With sincerity and total gratitude, we thank you for learning more about our great program.

Joe Horan, Executive Director
The Building Men Program