For these teens, manhood is rooted in community

Twice a month, a group of teenage boys gather around a campfire. They put away their phones so they can give their full attention to each other and the outdoors. 

Guided by mentors from their community, they share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their lives. They get real and try to figure out together what it means to be good men. 

“We hold what they share in non-judgment. We might give advice if they ask for it, but for the most part, it’s listening and asking questions,” says Jordan Bowman, executive director of Journeymen, which hosts the sessions for teens in Raleigh, NC. 

“In a lot of ways, it’s about handing them the pen and saying, ’You’re the author of your story. You’re becoming your own human. How do we support you in that?’”

The conversations are followed by “Rites of Passage” experiences, usually a weekend camping in the woods where they do activities, talk, and build trust. “The desire to belong is innate. If we don’t provide this space, they’re going to find another group, whether that be a gang or an online community.” Bowman says other groups often make boys give up their values to be accepted.

The Journeymen program is rooted in community. Mentors are people the teens see around them, from their teachers to their neighbors. “Our philosophy is that anyone can be a mentor and that being a mentor doesn’t have to be as scary and daunting as it seems. Fifty percent of being a mentor is just showing up,” says Bowman. 

The program is meaningful for both boys and mentors. “We’re creating connected, emotionally mature, resilient men and young men who embody healthy masculinity, that means they’re accountable, they’re responsible, they’re a part of a community, and they’re interdependent.”

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