Caiden Thompson (left) and Elwyn Langford, both in Grade 8 at Trafalgar Middle School, say the Boys Club helps them feel more connected to teachers and other boys. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

VIDEO: Helping boys become good men

School group connects Nelson boys with adult role models

Paul Luck thinks some adolescent boys are missing positive male role models in their lives. He’s the vice principal of Traflagar Middle School and has started a project at the school to provide adult male mentorship to young boys.

“The purpose is to turn young boys into good men,” he said.

He recently told a group of 28 Grade 8 boys that he was born into foster care and lived in that situation for the first six years of his life. Then he was adopted, but his adoptive mother’s marriage failed and he missed having an adult male in his life. Later, as an adult, he had some serious health problems.

“I also shared with the boys that I had a major heart attack and got an electric pump inserted in my heart, and later got a heart transplant,” Luck told the Star. “And the message to the boys was, there have been a lot of good people that have come along in my life and made a difference and have turned me into a person who can give back to the community. We all have to live a life where we are open to being helped and helping others.”

The newly formed Boys Club at the school is part of the province-wide Boys Club Network.

Food and stories

At the monthly meetings, the boys eat a meal together and hear stories told by adult men about the challenges and successes in their lives, especially in growing up. The boys then have an opportunity to discuss and ask questions.

Hearing Luck’s story at the first Boys Club meeting in January impressed Grade 8 student Caiden Thompson.

“After hearing Mr. Luck’s story and how he made it through it, and it turned out to be all good, I thought that was pretty cool. So I thought if there is going to be more of this I should stick around.”

Another Grade 8 student, Elwyn Langford, agreed.

“I would never see him being a person that came from that kind of background,” he said.

The point of the boys club is simply to have adult men tell their stories of hardship, problem-solving, connection and success. They don’t want to preach to the boys or change them, but to show them “how to be good men” through mentorship and role modeling.

Luck said being a good man is about “how you treat other people. How do you respectfully treat the women in your lives: girlfriends, sisters mothers. We also address being a person who can make good decisions.”

Being helpful and willing to be helped

Being a good man also means being helpful and being willing to be helped, Luck said, and having connections in the community.

Each meeting features an adult male role model who talks about his life. So far the boys have heard from a local police officer and from teachers Jeff Yasinchuk and Marcello Piro, in addition to Luck himself. Next year they plan to include many more men from the community.

The group has a cardinal rule about confidentiality: what’s said in the club stays in the club.

“It’s so people will feel more open talking about their feelings or experiences,” Elwyn said.

“If someone said something outside the group, that would make the person not speak again,” said Caiden. He said the group has changed his view of some of his fellow students.

“You know them on a deeper level. You are closer to them than you thought.”

Another Grade 8 student, Berend Platje, said the group builds trust.

“You get to trust more people, not just your own friend group,” he said. “Once you are in there you can trust everyone in the group.”

Why not a club for girls?

Trafalgar principal Carol-Ann Leidloff said there are already many other supports in place for girls, and not as many for boys.

“Some boys are being raised by single parent families,” she said, “typically with a mom as the head of the family. Some are missing positive male role models in their lives.”

She points out that college graduation rates are 40 per cent for boys and 60 per cent for girls.

“We’ve had the question, ‘What are you doing for girls?’” Leidloff says. “Part of the answer is… Boys’ Group. We’re helping these boys become positive young men/adults who will treat their partners well and contribute to their community in the future.”

Nelson boys travel to UBC

Dr. Santa Ono, the president of UBC, is a mentor in the Boys Club Network. Recently the network invited boys from around the province to an expenses-paid club meeting that would take place at a formal dinner at Dr. Ono’s house in Vancouver.

Luck took four boys from the Trafalgar school group including Caiden and Elwyn. They said the formality of it, and Dr. Ono’s lavish, history-laden house, were intimidating at first.

“But he was was so friendly,” Caiden said, “and after dinner he played foosball with us and took us down and showed us the beach.”

“He said make sure you do what you want to do,” said Elwyn, “but make sure you do it to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter if you are prime minster or a mechanic if you are doing it to the best of your ability and you like it, then that is what you should do.”

Ono gave each of the boys his personal email address and told them to contact them if they ever had a question or needed advice.

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UBC President Dr. Santa Ono, a Boys Club Network mentor, jokes with the Nelson table at a gathering he recently held at his home for boys from around the province. Photo: Boys Club Network

Caiden Thompson of Nelson takes the mic as a guest of UBC president Dr. Santa Ono at a formal dinner in Vancouver recently for Boys Club Network members from several communities in B.C. Dr. Ono is a Boys Club Network mentor himself. Photo: Boys Club Network

Trafalgar principal Carol-Ann Leidloff with Vice Principal and Boys Club leader Paul Luck. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

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