Aaron Horn’s accountability chart—a multi-page matrix outlining goals, tasks, and an hourly schedule—would make all but the most hyper-organized a little nervous.
But Horn EdD ’08, MFT ’12 is convinced that his chart is exactly what the youths at San Francisco’s Youth Guidance Center, the city’s juvenile detention facility, need. A therapist trainee for the Youth Justice Institute and student in USF’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program, Horn works primarily with male youths at the Youth Guidance Center.
“They always tell me, ‘My father’s in jail’ or, ‘My father died.’ A lot of these boys don’t have reliable men in their lives. There’s a lack of integrity, consistency, and organization,” Horn said. “What I try to do is bring consistency to their lives.”
As part of the exercise, Horn has the youths identify accountability partners—people who check in and make sure they do what they say. For many of the youths, Horn plays a hybrid role as accountability partner and therapist, a delicate balancing act, but one to which he is particularly well suited.
Like many of his clients, Horn grew up in Bayview-Hunters Point, a predominantly African American neighborhood plagued by violence and poverty, and was raised solely by his mother and grandmother. That shared background, he says, has been key to nurturing relationships with the youths.
“When they see me come into therapy and I say I grew up in Bayview, that trust almost builds automatically,” he said.
For Horn, the path to becoming a therapist has been circuitous, with stops at local nonprofits and public schools and a five-year stint as an airborne ranger in the U.S. military, which, he says, taught him his signature focus and attention to detail.
It was his passion for educating underserved youth that brought him to USF, where he completed a doctorate in international and multicultural education. His research on the importance of father-like care in the education of young black males underscored what he had observed during his years in the classroom—the lack of available black men to serve as tutors and mentors.
Horn will graduate from USF’s MFT program in July with a new set of tools to serve the youth of his community on a one-on-one level.
“And that’s where I really want to be—working with youth of color as a black male therapist, teaching them to hold each other accountable,” Horn said.