by Tim Birchard
The MKP Durango Area Community in southwest Colorado recently collaborated with Durango School District 9R and other local organizations to host the 2nd Annual ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference for 8th grade boys transitioning to high school.The conference, a character development opportunity for more than 200 boys (up from 90 boys served last year), featured workshops focused on nurturing Responsibility, Perseverance, and Respect. Interactive workshops included hands-on experiences with aikido, drumming, low-ropes courses, and other events designed to help the boys identify and articulate issues related to connecting with the Mature Masculine.
Directly in keeping with MKP’s stated purpose of supporting men in leading meaningful lives of integrity, accountability, responsibility, and emotional intelligence, the Keys To High School Success conference was designed and continues to evolve to directly address what eighth-grade boys need most, as prescribed by Ph.D. psychologists Michael Thompson and Dan Kindlon in their seminal study, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (Random House Publishing Group, 2009):
- Give boys permission to have an internal life, approval for the full range of human emotions, and help in developing an emotional vocabulary so that they may better understand themselves and communicate more effectively with others.
- Recognize and accept the high activity level of boys and give them safe boy places to express it.
- Talk to boys in their language—in a way that honors their pride and their masculinity. Be direct with them; use them as consultants and problem solvers.
- Teach boys that emotional courage is courage, and that courage and empathy are the sources of real strength in life.
- Use discipline to build character and conscience, not enemies.
- Model a manhood of emotional attachment.
- Teach boys that there are many ways to be a man.
MKP has signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with School District 9R, and is in official sponsorship supporting Conference needs. For this year’s conference, ManKind Project men were involved at all levels, from providing workshops to writing grants to coordinating conference logistics. School District 9R and MKP Durango Area Community plan to continue to grow and enhance that partnership, with MKP Durango Area Community taking over the conference at some point in the near future.
The Colorado School Public Relations Association (COSPRA), an organization dedicated to helping public school district members build stronger ties with their local communities through the practice of public relations, recently recognized the ‘Keys To High School Success’ conference as an award-winning community effort in the state of Colorado.
“What we found particularly impressive about the ‘Keys to Success’ is its ambition to positively change the personal behaviors of young male students to help them succeed. ‘Keys to Success’ is a Medallion Award Winner.” — Dan Dougherty, Director of Communications, Mesa County Valley Schools
The planning committee is working to carefully document all aspects of the curriculum in order to build a program that can be easily replicated by school districts and communities across the U.S. The program is aligned with and satisfies state education standards for 8th grade health education in three different tracks: Healthy Relationships, Advocacy, and Positive Self Image.
In an effort to increase and maximize opportunities for 8th grade boys to come into contact with examples of the Mature Masculine, one of the next steps in the evolution of the conference is to bring I-Group circles for the boys into local middle schools. By offering weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly opportunities throughout the school year for connection with experienced MKP men who are doing their work, the Keys To High School Success conference will transform from a stand-alone, annual event into the culmination of a year-long process through which boys becoming young men learn to do their work.