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 On Aug. 1, YWCA Evanston/North Shore held a graduation ceremony for 10 young men from Evanston Township High School who had completed a six-week program centered on leadership and the role of men in preventing gender violence.

YWCA’s program, 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.

“We have had partnerships in the past through which we worked with young men,” said Mr. 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 it was a good idea to continue to reach out to young men to change their attitudes.

“From working with students at Northwestern University, we understand that college guys are struggling with masculinity. 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. “For example, we’re all told as men that we can’t cry,” said  Mr. Rice. “But that’s wrong.” He added that one of the young men said after the ceremony, “You changed my whole life.”