For the first time, boys in the Prince Albert area had a place to gather and break through social boundaries.
The YWCA hosted their inaugural Strength in Being a Boy event Friday, which makes them the fourth YWCA organization in Canada to host such an event. Roughly 40 boys from the region participated in the gathering.
“The key message is, is that you can be any boy that you want to be, not who society kinda streamlines as a boy, or who parents think you should be,” Kimberly Smith from the YWCA said. “Girls have a lot of programming in schools, a lot of programming in the community… the whole thing is [boys] need to know they can be dynamic, they can do more than what is offered [in Prince Albert].”
The first Strength in Being a Boy event focused on boys between the ages of 12 to 14. She said this age group was highlighted because as teenagers, boys are starting to become aware of their role in the world, and in the early teen years is a good time to educate them about self-esteem and the tools they can use to empower themselves.
The day was broken into a number of different sessions for boys to participate in.
The day started off with a visit from Sgt. Travis Willie of the Prince Albert Police Service who spoke to the boys about how posts on social media can go viral. He demonstrated by making a post and showing the group how many countries had viewed the post. Smith said in roughly one minute, people from at least three countries had viewed the post.
The sergeant wasn’t the only first responder to visit the group. Smith said members of the Prince Albert Fire Department also stopped by and talked about their roles, how they’re different than police officers, and gave the group a tour of one of their fire trucks.
Beyond speaking with first responders, the youth further learned about budgeting, a point Smith felt was an important inclusion.
“So many people don’t learn about budgeting and every day we deal with money,” Smith said. “Teenagers have a lot more spending money these days. I know some adults who don’t know how to budget, so at a younger age, they’re learning some money management.”
The group learned about self-defence techniques, focused mostly on diffusing situations instead of relying on aggression to overcome would-be attackers.
Teamwork was also highlighted through some hands-on work. There was also an art period for the groups to participate in. This was a way to encourage boys to explore possibilities beyond sports as recreational activities.
Boys not alone in programming
For the last six years, the YWCA has hosted a Power of Girls event, which focuses on building self-esteem for girls in the area. The gathering will be returning for the seventh year Saturday.
“If the girls have self-esteem, if they have skills to fall back on, they’re less [likely] to stay in abusive relationships,” Smith said. “Because they have the self-esteem, the support systems they get from making friends in the group that they can talk to.”
To keep things fresh this year, girls will be participating in team building exercises too. Just like the boys, they will be building towers in pairs in competition with their groupmates.
In the past, Smith said, the YWCA has worked with girls to provide labour skills, like changing tires or how to check their oil. She said the idea behind teaching girls these skills is to show them they can be or do anything, regardless of the social norms placed on them.
Both programs have gathered a lot of interest from the community and Smith is already planning next year’s events. She said depending on funding and the amount of interest, the age range could be expanded in the coming years.
On Twitter: @BryanEneas
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