Change is in the air.
We've made it through the spring, a time of transition, and summer is here.
Appropriately, Boys to Men Tucson is embarking upon a fresh new season, and I want to share with you some exciting updates about the evolution of our movement to show up for the boys and young men in Southern Arizona.
As many of you know, in April, our Executive Director Felipe Jacome transitioned into his hard-earned and well-deserved retirement. He continues as a volunteer for us and sits in on circles for our School-Based Mentoring (SBM) program. He has purposefully handed off the baton to me, Michael Brasher, to become the new Executive Director, providing guidance and blessings as we expand on the critical foundation built during his tenure.
It's important to me to reach out to our base of supporters, to introduce myself, and to shed some light upon the vision of where we all are headed in this vital work to show up for boys in their journey towards a positive manhood.
How I got here
For the last 5 years I have been building and supervising programming for men through the Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse that attempts to respond to crises of violence in our community. Through that work, we formed and expanded programming around men’s healing circles, developed collaborations and partnerships with the courts and probations, and engaged a range of partners from across the spectrum of community stakeholders in order to envision together how we might push forward for a brighter future for the other boys and men in our lives.
While I have treasured the experience of the last several years, it has also catapulted my appreciation of the urgent need to show up for the boys and young men who languish in our communities from lack of stable, positive male mentorship. As soon as I found out that Boys to Men Tucson was looking for someone to serve in Felipe’s absence, I knew that this was the work that I was hungry to pour myself into.
A handful of additional experiences have prepared me to join our mission. While working on my master's degree on anti-violence strategies in Miami, I spent 2 years living off and on in Colombia conducting research with children and becoming fluent in Spanish. At present, I have just completed my coursework in pursuit of a doctoral degree at the School of Geography and Development here at the University of Arizona. My dissertation research focuses on masculinity, boyhood, and men's work to create community change. Through this experience and work, I’ve concluded that nothing is more important than working together as men to show up for the boys in our lives.
Where we are heading
Our School-Based Mentoring (SBM) program continues to provide critical support to young boys in Southern Arizona, and it is in relentless demand across area schools. Over the last year we have continued to expand, and are now into eleven schools! For the fall, we have one more committed, and another three who are hoping to bring us onboard.
In addition, this spring we hosted our first Challenge Adventure Weekend in quite some time, and it was an overwhelming success. The two-day event was held at Camp Cooper Center for Environmental Learning, with 22 boys participating, mostly from our circles at 6 schools, and 19 adult male volunteers. This was also my first official participation with our outfit, and a spectacular initiatory experience into what this work can be.
Finally, this summer we are rolling out a range of programming to stay connected with the 160+ boys who sat in our SBM circles over the past academic year. We will be piloting an online circle meet-up every Monday starting in June, and we are doing that through Zoom. It should be a great opportunity for the boys who are interested to stay connected and enjoy the support of mentors and friends over the break.
We have a handful of summer events planned for the boys to get out of the house and spend some quality together with our mentors. For June, we are planning an outing to a local indoor climbing gym called Rocks and Ropes, who has offered to discount our rates in support of our critical mission to support the boys in this community on their journey towards a positive manhood.
So what do we need?
What we need more than ever during this season of transition is to hear from you. The amazing legacy of Boys to Men Tucson tells a story of a community coming together because they saw that our boys need us to show up for them more than ever. The present-day growth in our thriving SBM program, alongside the success of our adventure outings with the boys, is all built upon the foundational, pioneering, and voluntary labor of a group of concerned citizens who decided to take leadership on this pressing issue.
As we enter a new phase of this mission, we are putting out a heart-felt call for our supporters not only to re-enlist, but also to tell us what you see as the pressing needs and opportunities for moving forward our mission today. In addition to hearing from you about what is needed, we also need more mentors! Despite being armed with more than 60 active volunteers helping us move this work forward, the demand for our mentorship programming continues to outpace our capacity to respond. With more schools signing up for the waiting list for our SBM Program, we are in critical need of committed volunteers to help us show for those boys. We will be doing a new mentor training in August for those interested in jumping in!
Finally, we desperately need your support to continue to fund this vital community service. From the small subscription donors who utilize paypal to give us a recurrent monthly offering, to those of you who have recommended and advocated for us amongst more substantial grants, foundations, and funders, every single dollar that gets put into our coffers goes directly to support this singularly innovative programming in Southern Arizona to address the needs of disadvantaged boys in our community.
Hit the comments below to let us know what you think about where we are headed and what we ought to do!