Ricky Ochilo, staff writer
Life’s most prosperous journeys are the ones that welcome new travelers to join in search of exciting destinations.
Journeymen in Asheville is part of an international movement that seeks to instill in young boys values that promote leadership and integrity. Christopher Frisco, deputy director of Journeymen, explained that the program is currently in its start up phase. Journeymen is a non-profit program facilitated by three men who work other regular jobs. The program was created as a model from the Boys to Men Southeast Regional Chapter International Mentoring Network based in San Diego, CA and the Mankind Project, which is an international non profit that aims to positively impact the lives of boys from ages 12 to 17.
With growing negative influence around society, boys are being misled and failing to exert and utilize their potential in better ways. The lack of good role models in the lives of boys today has resulted in many boys resorting to gang violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancies, poor retention rates in schools and internet pornography. These negative pressures have deterred many destined boys from realizing and exploring their intellectual talents professionally.
Other problems facing young boys today are increasing suicide rates. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63 percent of youth suicides occur in fatherless homes. In addition, a special report from the Department of Justice noted that at least 70 percent of juveniles in state operated institutions have no father. It can be assumed that the lack of a father figure and positive mentors have contributed to behavioral problems and crime that have taken away from the goals, talents, and professional careers that these boys could have.
Journeymen’s vision is to help tackle some of the social and psychological vices that have negatively affected the lives of young boys. One of its main focuses is to instill responsibility and guidance in the lives of boys to promote positive manhood. For example, boys who first attend the program undergo a Rights of Passage Adventure Weekend.
Frisco explained that it is a three day training program that helps the boys discover their interests and find out about their future pursuits. He added that many times the boys coming into the program have displaced feelings of anger and after attending the initiation weekend they are positively transformed. There is also a Peer Processing Group effort that creates a space where boys can talk about feelings, experiences or problems they are facing. It is hoped that these group discussions and circles will help instill in the boys a sense of emotional strength and maturity.
However, there are some challenges facing the program. Frisco maintained that many men are “apprehensive” about becoming mentors.
“I judge that most men do not feel complete, whole, or ‘perfect’ enough to guide someone else into manhood,” Frisco said. Another reason Frisco gave is that many of the men might have undergone some of the transitions the boys are going through and do not want to relive moments of pain, loneliness and frustration.
Other areas of concern that Journeymen focuses on are emotional discontent, sadness, joy, fear, integrity and other self-esteem related issues, as well as teaching boys to be more accountable men in the future.
Through focusing on theses issues that usually cloud and frustrate youth, Journeymen is able to help boys address their insecurities while providing mentors and ways in which young boys can transcend certain social pressures and become strong young leaders. Frisco mentioned that they would welcome and appreciate having interested Warren Wilson students work with Journeymen.
“Students, male and female could help with administration, fund-raising, marketing, awareness, etc,” Frisco said. He added that another option was to have male students mentor and be part of a rights of passage weekend initiation. The first weekend retreat will take place on May 1-3.
Besides that, Boys to Men and Journeymen hopes that the support offered to boys will in the end pave way for a community based program that applies to different communities around the world. With an emphasis on personal growth, courage and helping boys to use their talents and strengths in positive ways, programs like Boys to Men and Journeymen are challenging young boys to live responsible lives and take meaningful action.