When Carlos Honore moved to Iowa City from Baton Rouge in 1989, the move was something of a culture shock. By his eighth grade year, facing problems at home, Honore wound up in juvenile court.
But instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center, Honore was put on probation and found sports. He played football and wrestling and later competed in track and soccer. In the mid-90s, he was instrumental in getting the football team at Iowa City's West High School to the 1995 4A championship.
Honore says that sports gave him a sense of camaraderie and family. He had the support of coaches and mentors who saw his potential and wanted him to succeed.
About nine years ago, living in Texas, Honore realized that there were no youth football programs in Houston’s Fifth Ward. The area reminded him of Baton Rouge and he wanted to offer the same mentorship that he had received through sports to the young boys in the community. With the help of his wife, he founded the Fifth Ward Saints.
"I thought back on my life and what issues I was having and what areas I needed help in," Honore says. "And it was the social services aspect. So it kind of evolved from just a football team to a football team/social service program."
Now, with the Fifth Ward Saints thriving in Houston, Honore is bringing the program to Iowa City. In partnership with the Iowa City Community School District, teachers and counselors from five elementary schools have each identified their twenty most at-risk students to participate in the program's first year.
"The issues that we address, it's not a black or white issue, it's not a poor or rich issue. These kids have issues all across socioeconomic lines," Honore says. "We would absolutely love nothing more than the kids that are 'at-risk' to be mingled in and coexist with the kids that aren't 'at-risk.' We feel that those kids need to work together and form their own opinions about each other at a young age."
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Honore about his plans for the program in Iowa and how organizations like the Fifth Ward Saints can impact the lives of youth.
A kickoff party for Fifth Ward Saints North will be held on Thursday, April 19th at the UI Community Credit Union in North Liberty.