It can often be tough making the transition from youth to manhood, but a group at the Muscatine YMCA is doing its best to help with the journey. The Guy Thing Youth Group began Tuesday, Sept. 11, and will run Tuesdays from 4:15-5:15 p.m. at the Y, 1823 Logan St.

“We’ve been doing this program for about eight years, or some variation on it, and it keeps getting more and more popular,” said Amy Hessel, director of character development. “The program this year is more curriculum-based and includes elements of (science, technology, engineering and math) teaching along with programs on self-esteem, decision-making and other topics that are relevant to the manhood curriculum.”

So what exactly is the “manhood curriculum?”

“Many societies throughout history have had rites of passage, things that young men would go through on their way to adulthood, where they could learn the skills that they need to be strong men in the community,” Hessel said. “We don’t really have that as much in modern society in our country. So this program helps out with that.

“A lot of kids might not have a male role model at home or a strong male role model in their lives, or someone to teach them things — this can help with that,” she added. “It’s values building and teaching all those things that young people and particularly boys need to be successful as young men.”

The program is for boys in grades 6-8. Its free and students do not need to be Y members to participate. It involves team building exercises, programs on cooperation and information processing, sports and other activities, including a lion hunt.

“It’s not actually a real lion hunt,” Hessel laughed. “In other older tribal societies you might see the adult men take the boys out on a lion hunt to build character and bonding. This is more of a scavenger hunt. We don’t have a real lion here in the YMCA.”

Good to know.

“It’s important to have activities that are geared toward boys and boys this age,” she said. “Boys are different from girls. If I got a bunch of girls in this room and asked them to talk about things, it would be much easier than it is with boys. Boys — you can’t just sit down and talk to them sometimes, you need to have them active and engaged and working on something together and then you can get them to talk more.”

Brandon Van Zandt, assistant director of character building, and the leader of the group, agrees.

“It’s a very positive directed group, and we get a lot of good feedback from it,” he said. “Just getting the group together sometimes to work on something together is a positive thing. It’s important to show them that they’re not alone, that they’re all going through a lot of the same things together, especially in their early teens and pre-teen years, growing up. This way we’re able to help each other out and have fun doing a lot of activities that they really like.”

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