An Anchorage conference this week aimed at improving young men is taking on a complex problem with a simple mission statement.

The inaugural Men's Multicultural Conference put on by Steps 2 Success is looking to unite and strengthen young men, empowering them to make a positive impact on life at home and in the community.

Pastor Justin Shaw of Searcy, Arkansas will be a keynote speaker. He spoke with KTVA 11's Daybreak on Wednesday about the conference and what young men struggle with most in today's world.

"I believe most of the struggles that young men face are not seeing enough strong men," Shaw said. "We have a lot of what we consider non-exemplary men in their lives, people who, like myself, who used to sell drugs. Those are the things that are magnified in the community, so these are things they see: homes without fathers, homes without strong families."

Shaw believes that drug use and crime are products of poor family life, something he experienced firsthand.

"I had a calling on my life at a young age," Shaw reflected. "My father was in the penitentiary for 21 years, my mother was on crack cocaine for 17 years, so I had to go and live with my grandfather, who was actually that exemplary strong man in my life. I used to always think that my life was a mistake because, like I said, I had experienced those things. With my mother on crack cocaine, her almost dying in my arms several times from smoking so much crack that her heart almost bust.”

Shaw says his grandfather planted the seeds for his relationship with God. Now he's looking to inspire the next generation.

"There's several different kind of men. Society has taught you how to be a different kind of man. You have the strong, the super thug, the super serious, the educated [man], but biblically there’s several kind of men that God require: being the priest, a protector, and a provider of your home, so it's my job this weekend to come to Alaska to wake up the strong men.” Shaw explained. “Joel 3:9 says, ‘Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; prepare for war, wake up the mighty men.’ So, there's a lot of sleeping giants, there’s a lot of strong men that are yet sleeping with their systems, their mindsets, with their addictions, so it’s my job to come wake them up this weekend."

Shaw is just one of the speakers featured at the conference, which takes place Thursday through Saturday at Bartlett High School. Former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is also scheduled to speak.

The Men's Multicultural Conference will touch on a variety of subjects including:

  • present community issues
  • marriage and relationships
  • criminal justice system
  • men breaking the cycle of destruction
  • drug addiction
  • education
  • employment

The conference is free to attend for young men aged 13 to 19; admission for men 20 and over is $45. Tickets for the event are being sold online.

Correction: Quotes in this story have been edited for accuracy.

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