by Stephen Dafoe
A six-week community program starting in Morinville Sept. 29 will offer boys aged seven to 11 an hour-and-a-half of useful information every Thursday afternoon.
BOYS stands for Boys: Owning Your Situations. The program talks about real life stuff, according to Rebecca Balanko, the creator of the program. Balanko is the Community Resources Coordinator at Sturgeon school Division, and she created the program through her day job.
Although the sessions take place at Morinville Public School, Balanko points out it is not exclusive to students who attend that school.
“This is open to anybody from any area,” she said.
“We talk about resiliency. We talk about friendship. We talk about conflict. We talk about things that make them who they are and look at some of those personal things around why they picked the friend they have or why they have the conflict that they have. But it’s always about building up their personal toolkit and walking away with better coping skills and maybe changing their self-esteem a bit. They’ll feel really good walking away from the sessions.”
Balanko sees the sessions as a preventative program that will provide young men with the skills she says we all need to move along in life.
“I think people are more aware that it’s an issue,” Balanko said “Becoming an up-and-coming teen is a difficult time. We all look for those validations from our peers, and when that’s not happening, we take that personally. It’s important that we know what our strengths are. “We want resilient young people. We need resilient young people.”
The program will offer a variety of activities from the practical to ones that are just pure fun. One of Balanko’s favourite portions is posing the philosophical question: Why doesn’t Batman smile? She says she is always delighted by the variety of thoughtful and humorous responses young men have given when she has presented sessions in schools.
“I don’t want it to feel like school; we try to keep it lighthearted,” she said. “We talk a lot about the conflict between siblings and with parents. We do some hands-on activities as well. I think the issues are there [for boys]. I think they are just not spoken about the way they are with girls.”
Despite filling the GIRLS program five years in a row, two previous attempts have been made to get the BOYS program off the ground.
Balanko said she is looking for a maximum of 14 children but needs a minimum of eight for the program to go ahead this year.
“It’s an ideal group,” she said of the 14 number. “There has been a lot of interest and personal messages from people that are interested.”
Balanko is hoping the program takes off its third time at bat.
“I saw there was a need for young guys to have something, and we’ve been unsuccessful in having met capacity here in town,” she said. “I think with the BOYS Program we are often competing with a lot of the winter sports that start up. There is a lot of commitment when it comes to sports, and I get that. But sports isn’t for everyone, and it’s nice to have an alternative.”
The cost of the program is $50 per participant, and Balanko said subsidies are available through the Town’s Family and Community Support Services Department.
For more information about registering visit https://community.morinville.ca/parksandrec/registration?id=cc8bf766-0733-46b0-b652-a8e3ce1ab27c.