The brothers of Iowa Theta RLC have consistently served as mentors for young male students in the Cedar Falls community. The idea first came while I was serving as a mentor for junior high boys.
I was having a conversation with Angela, a counselor at Holmes Junior High about my future education career and college experiences, particularly SigEp and how it has allowed me to grow as a leader. She stated that the school has partnered with a local women’s organization to put on a female empowerment and development session for the junior high girls, but Angela had never been able to find a consistent men’s organization to partner with. This led to a conversation about the issues the students in the school were facing and some of the challenges they were trying to overcome with the eighth grade boys. That is when I asked, “Why not SigEp?” and we began planning over the course of a semester what the program would look like and how we could address some of the issues that were coming up with the boys.
Working with Angela, our chapter helped identify areas within the school that could benefit from our involvement, and we focused on one: leadership. We believed that we could make a positive impression on these students through holding an event on leadership that would be relevant to them. So we planned to discuss gender stereotypes, healthy relationships and goal development. With support from the school, we held an hour-and-a-half-long event that brought in more than 120 eighth grade boys.
The Holmes leadership event was a unique way for our brothers to apply what we have learned as SigEps and empower each of the Holmes students to be himself.
Here are some of the topics we discussed with the students:
What is the difference between a good and bad role model?
The junior high students looked at different celebrities to determine if they would make good or bad role models. Brothers then had the opportunity to talk about their own role models in SigEp and in college. In small groups, students talked with a brother about what it means to be a positive role model. SigEp strives to develop leaders who model the way for others, and I saw this as an essential piece for young men to recognize early on.
What does it mean to be a man?
Students also talked in their small groups about what it means to be a man. They learned the differences between society’s definition of masculinity and what “being a man” actually means.
It was important for us to have this discussion with them because boys learn at a young age that they shouldn’t show their emotions, which often leads to restrictive ideas about manhood. At Iowa Theta, our brothers attend a Mentors in Violence Prevention program and learn about advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, being an active bystander and breaking out of the “gender box.”
What is consent?
A lot of students begin experiencing romantic relationships at this age, so it is important that they recognize what is appropriate behavior and how to treat their significant other with respect. As these students develop and mature, they start to partake in more adult activities, with issues of consent and sexting becoming evident. Brothers talked to these students about the dangers of sexting, why consent is essential in a relationship and what the characteristics of healthy relationships look like.
How do you set SMART goals?
To conclude the event, we tied together everything that had been discussed by asking the question, “What are you doing right now to achieve your goals in the future?” We had serious discussions about prioritizing important actions that will contribute to their goals over things that could be detrimental to their life. The students set a personal and academic goal, a habit we as SigEps are taught to do throughout our life.
At Iowa Theta RLC, we are completely invested in connecting the vision of Building Balanced Men to our communities. Through the Holmes leadership event, we can effectively support the mission of our local schools and also instill the foundation of a balanced man within the young leaders of tomorrow.