Last summer, AEC was invited to do a "lock-in" for a group of American Heritage Girls in Greene, NY. to be held around Valentine's Day in 2014. In January, I shot off an email to check on the situation. The girls range in age from 9-12, so the plan was to do our "What is Beauty" program, which is about self-respect, goal setting, inner beauty and the false image that is portrayed of women in the media. I didn't hear back (not realizing that getting to a computer was not easy for the woman I was trying to reach) and intended to call her, but before I could, she called me and left a message to touch base. She had not seen my email, but we were 7 weeks away from the program and needed to set things in motion so she was also eager to get things rolling.
It turns out that in the interim between the summer event where I met her and now, she had been enthusiastically promoting our organization and our event had morphed into a 3 hour program for both boys and girls from ages 8 - 18!
Here was a real challenge. We have been concentrating on programs for girls as most of our help comes from women, with a couple of programs which were suitable for mixed groups, but we hadn't really done anything just for boys. I had a program called "Backyard Drills" which is on video and which is for boys and dads to learn character while learning about football moves, but had not yet found a place to have the program. So, it was untested.
We were good for the younger girls with the "What is Beauty" program which runs 90 minutes, And we had recently had a program with local image consultant Linda Reese for the older girls on skin care, make-up (subdued!) and wardrobe (not too short, not too tight, not too low cut), including how to choose colors that enhance your skin, which had gone really well, so we again enlisted Linda's help. Our presenter Deborah gave a quick 15 minute talk based on Nicole O'Dell's "Guydlines" which gives some great tips on how to handle a relationship.That plus a fashion show, following Dannah Gresh's clothing tips was our evening for the girls.
For the boys, we started with 90 minutes of "Backyard Drills", (we used this for all the boys and they really liked it) followed by snack and then broke up the older boys into our program about relationships, media and the problem with porn which we had given in Sherburne, back in November. With the younger boys, we came up with a totally new program, which I am pleased to say was exuberantly received, called "How to Be a Hero" with a quiz, a crossword puzzle and several stories about real life heroes (one as young as four!). It kept the younger boys' attention, which was all we could ask for!
We titled the evening "The Character Games" and the program started simply with a short interactive bit on what is attractive (in a person) and what is not (good and bad character traits). I was able to use a story that I had found about a woman who had graduated from a local top college and become the editor of a major magazine in NYC. She had been living with her boyfriend for several years and they suddenly decided to get married. She was astonished at the fallout. The announcement of their engagement changed the attitude of everyone around her. She was suddenly respectable, respected and included. People no longer treated her as a kid. Her conclusion? Our society still considers marriage a benchmark of maturity.
If more people "got that", we would have far fewer problems in our society. Marriage means commitment and stability and it is the bedrock of a civilized nation.