YWCA summer camp teaches boys how to be men

The camp aims to prevent domestic violence and break down toxic masculinity.

For the first time in Dayton, boys between the ages of 10 and 16 could attend a summer camp this year that aimed to prevent domestic violence.

AMEND Together, put on through the YWCA with a grant from the Montgomery County ADAHMS Board, typically runs through the school year and on Saturdays. This year, the YWCA added a boys summer camp at their Huber Heights campus for a week in June. Another boys summer camp is planned for next year.

Kelly Howard Jr. and Ralph Davis Jr. said the program helps prevent domestic violence by talking about boys’ attitudes towards women, and about toxic masculinity, before those attitudes can become engrained.

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Davis said plenty of programs target women to help them prevent domestic violence. But not as many programs target men.

“One of the key components of the program like this coming into existence is because even though all men don’t commit violence towards women, most of the time that violence being committed is done by men,” Davis said.

By talking to boys between the ages of 10 and 16, AMEND helps change the kinds of thinking that could evolve into domestic violence, Davis said.

Davis said it’s valuable to have a space where kids can be their authentic self and not feel they have to live up to a certain standard of “being a man,” meaning a boy won’t cry ever or won’t show emotion.

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“You don’t have to act in a way that others want you to act for acceptance,” Davis said.

The weeklong camp talked about what it’s like to be a man, but also talked about budgeting and careers and looked at stereotypes about men that are displayed in hip-hop culture.

Howard said a boy in the program told him once that he was the closest thing the kid had to a mentor. As someone who had a mentor growing up, Howard was shocked, and said he now feels listening to kids and making them feel accepted for who they are is one of the most important parts of the program.

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“I thought everybody had a mentor, or somebody who knew somebody that they could count on or someone that they’ve looked up to,” Howard said. “And not everybody has that.”

While a relatively small number of kids showed up to the camp each day, Howard and Davis said they still felt the camp was successful.

“I feel like we’re heading in the right direction,” Howard said.

During the school year, AMEND is in City Day Community School, Belle Haven Elementary School, Wayne High School, Riverscape Career Tech High School, Englewood Hills Elementary and DECA Middle School. The group also has an optional meeting on Saturdays. Email amendtogetherywca@gmail.com for more information.

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