Ambarvale school program helps boys smash stigmas

NEW LEADERS: Boys 2 Men program participants are urged to express their feelings through activities such as boxing and throwing paper planes. (Back): Braiden Yann, Daniel Simmons-Holterman, Sooletogi Tavesi, Jaydon Colpo, Christian Toloa, Johnson Toleafoa, Jaxon Hopkins, Micah Holmes and Ahmed Saadeddine. (Front): Matthew Bannister, Aiden Antonino and Christian Young. Picture: Chris Lane
NEW LEADERS: Boys 2 Men program participants are urged to express their feelings through activities such as boxing and throwing paper planes. (Back): Braiden Yann, Daniel Simmons-Holterman, Sooletogi Tavesi, Jaydon Colpo, Christian Toloa, Johnson Toleafoa, Jaxon Hopkins, Micah Holmes and Ahmed Saadeddine. (Front): Matthew Bannister, Aiden Antonino and Christian Young. Picture: Chris Lane

"Boys have emotions too. We're human as well so it's normal to cry."

That's the message from Thomas Reddall High School student Thomas Brown, who is a participant in the school's revolutionary program for male students.

Boys 2 Men focuses on teaching valuable lessons, developing leadership and getting young men to talk actively about their feelings.

It isn't your usual school program, with the Ambarvale boys taking part in activities such as boxing and writing down their emotions on paper planes before throwing them.

Two Boys 2 Men participants practise their boxing technique at Thomas Reddall High School. Picture: Chris Lane

Two Boys 2 Men participants practise their boxing technique at Thomas Reddall High School. Picture: Chris Lane

Thomas, 17, said Boys 2 Men had helped him prove his mental health.

"One big challenge I've overcome is the stereotype that a boy can't talk or cry," he said.

"I've learnt that it's normal to feel down, it's normal to not feel motivated.

"If it wasn't for the program, I probably would have dropped out of school."

One big challenge I've overcome is the stereotype that a boy can't talk or cry.

Student Thomas Brown

Boys 2 Men was founded by PE teacher Lisa Callaway and her former colleague Karen Boswell in late 2015.

Ms Callaway said the program aimed to teach things that "students wouldn't necessarily learn in the classroom".

"Boys 2 Men focuses on drug and alcohol, risk tasking and also provides sexual education," she said. "Mental health education is also a big thing, so is getting the boys to talk to each other.

"We have students from Year 10 through to Year 12 involved in the program.

"Participants are chosen because they have leadership potential, but need to be more engaged to want to come to school."

The program has continued to grow in popularity and awareness.

A video about Boys 2 Men was recently shared on the NSW Department of Education's Facebook page. It had close 145,000 views and was shared nearly 200 times (see video below).

Ms Callaway said a dozen of her students now took part in the program and her school had also established a partnership with Ambarvale Public School.

"Our students mentor their students each fortnight," she said.

"They do activities like building things or painting through to mental health projects and how to control their anger."

For more details about Boys 2 Men, call Thomas Reddall High School on 4625 4404.