On August 1, YWCA Evanston/North Shore held a graduation ceremony for ten young men from Evanston Township High School (ETHS). But this wasn’t about academics. Instead the ceremony recognized these teenagers for completing a six-week program centered on leadership and the role of men in preventing gender violence.
YWCA’s program, which was led by Violence Prevention Educator Antonio Rice and Facilitator Brian McHugh, focused on helping these young men understand healthy masculinity and how ingrained notions of masculinity can be toxic. It also gave them skills and tools to be leaders among their peers and intervene to prevent relationship violence.
The program is part of YWCA’s Men’s Leadership Initiative and is an outgrowth of YWCA’s increased focus on the role of men in preventing gender violence.
“We have had partnerships in the past through which we worked with young men,” said Rice, “but this was a new program run solely by YWCA Evanston/North Shore. We hosted a men’s dinner more than a year ago and close to 200 men who are leaders in our communities came. A lot of them agreed was a good idea to continue to reach out to young men to change their attitudes.”
According to Rice, the summer program, which was held at the YWCA, focused on young men who will be starting college soon. He put the word out at ETHS and ten young men were able to make the commitment.
“From working with students at Northwestern University, we understand that college guys are struggling with masculinity,” he said. “We thought this summer program would be a great opportunity to reach out to young men before they start college – to talk about masculinity and what these guys can do when they get to college to support women and take responsibility for what is right.”
The weekly sessions covered a lot of ground, including revising definitions of masculinity, media stereotypes, and male role models in their own lives. Rice and McHugh led activities focused on the “narrow box that defines manhood,” and encouraged the participants to step outside of the box.
“For example, we’re all told as men that we can’t cry,” said Rice. “But that’s wrong.”
The program had a powerful effect on the participants. According to Rice, one of the young men said afterward, “You changed my whole life.”
For more information on workshops for young men and to see if your organization might benefit, contact Antonio Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org or Wendy Dickson at email@example.com. Or call YWCA Evanston/North Shore at 847-864-8445.
YWCA Evanston/North Shore works to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families and strengthen our local communities. It serves more than 10,000 people annually in Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glencoe, Glenview, Golf, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Park Ridge, Skokie, Wilmette, and Winnetka.