A turnaround program, just for boys

Jon Gilgoff, executive director of the new Oakland nonprofit Brothers on the Rise, writes about his work to help “build a movement like feminism did.”

It surprises people sometimes that our organization serves all types of boys in Oakland: anxious boys, depressed boys, distracted boys, disruptive boys, and, yes, defiant and aggressive boys, too. We like to explain that just as all types of girls need support from programs like Girls, Inc., the same goes for male youth, too.

It’s amazing the change that occurs when you see a child for who he really is and put him in the position to not only overcome his challenges but then teach others to do the same. At a recent event, we had our socially awkward boys leading 50 guests in get-to-know-your-neighbor games. In a presentation to elementary school boys, we had a recently arrived immigrant confidently explain with a still-thick accent his digital story describing the months of silence he passed in fear of being teased. Describing the value of our program for a CBS5 segment, a grieving student explained how hearing about other boys’ loss helped him cope and stack on track.

Of course some of our boys come with behavioral challenges and these are the most satisfying turnarounds to witness. A case in point is a group of students who raised money from a youth grant program, and led a school wide event for students and teachers on ways to end violence, sexism and homophobia. It’s great to see the boys step into young manhood in this way, and one of our goals as a program – to bring more males into careers like teaching, social work and public health.

Since a lot of boys grow up without dads around, it’s nice we can provide both staff and volunteers to provide positive male role-modeling. It’s something single moms consistently appreciate in our parent workshops. The men we bring into talk to the boys come from different careers, but they all share in common their commitment to serving and making positive community change. When we ask the boys their favorite part of our counseling and leadership programs, they often say simply, “the visits.”

If you’re a man who would like to visit with us, we’d love to hear from you. Whether you’re male or female, we’d love to connect (Click here to see how you can get involved). We’re helping to build a movement like feminism did and if we’re successful we can expect the same amazing results for boys and men.

At staff trainings we give people often say, “I haven’t heard of other programs just for boys, how come?” What can we do to change that?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • http://www.movingforwardeducation.com Lacy Asbill

    Thank you to Jon for founding an amazing mentoring program for Oakland boys! It is so important for boys to learn progressive values from the young men they look up to–men are truly able to impart these critical thinking tools in a way that is heard and accepted differently than when these messages are delivered by women. As a feminist who runs gender-specific academic mentoring programs for Oakland students, I have seen firsthand how effective boy-specific programming can be. To learn more about another boy-centered program here in Oakland, visit http://www.boysmovingforward.com.

  • Teacher

    Excellent work, Brothers on the Rise! I hope the program gains some financial backing to expand!

  • Robin Goodfellow

    I just heard about this program at a Glenview Neighborhood Association meeting. It is so impressive, so hopeful! Jon is a terrific person filling a part of the overwhelming need for this work!

    Robin Goodfellow, teacher

  • http://www.brothersontherise.org Jon Gilgoff

    Great comments – another awesome nonprofit doing gender-responsive work with boys and girls, a teacher and a community member. Together, we’re building a boys’ and men’s movement that will benefit all of Oakland! Join us!!