Pacific hosts seminar Friday dealing with issues faced by teenage males

Over the past year, Pacific University’s Center for Gender Equity has covered everything from queer and transgender issues to sexuality in the disabled community to prostitution.

“We want to make sure we’re catering to all groups,” said senior political science major and CGE Project Coordinator John Pachecko, who believes one important group needs more attention:

Men and boys.

The center started expanding its coverage of males several years ago with “It’s a Guy Thing,” which returns to Pacific this Friday after a year off in 2012.

The all-day seminar runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It’s geared toward boys aged 12 to 15 and includes games, activities, small-group sessions run by students studying professional psychology and education, and a question-answer session with male undergrads.

That Q&A panel is one of the key benefits of “It’s a Guy Thing,” said Brian O’Driscoll, director of Pacific’s Career Development Center.

“College-age students are older, but they’re not that far removed from having gone through similar issues,” O’Driscoll said. “They’re not there to spout off a lot of advice and they’re not coming at the discussion as a parent.”

The environment relaxes in a room filled with young men and boys, said O’Driscoll, who has a teenage son. Barriers break down. “The youth are more likely to open up and talk.” In doing so, they are able to explore the concept of manhood and the physiological and social changes that go with it.

Such mentoring is sometimes possible in the few schools that have mixed-age classes, O’Driscoll said. But most schools aren’t set up to deal with social issues around “how kids relate to their parents and how feelings and attitudes can spill over and affect their (classroom) performance,” he said. “It’s not a criticism, it’s just beyond their scope.”

“It’s a Guy Thing” helps fill that role, said O’Driscoll, who would like to see more communities creating spaces outside school to address male issues.

The seminar also aims to expose boys to the college environment and get them thinking about college down the road.

In the fall O’Driscoll helped stage “It’s a Guy Thing” at Oregon State University in Corvallis for 37 boys from Lebanon.

Forest Grove benefits from Pacific in ways small, rural towns without universities can’t, said O’Driscoll, who grew up in Lebanon.

“I don’t think more than a couple of the kids from Lebanon had been on OSU’s campus, so most were wide-eyed to see college kids walking around,” he said.

“Down at Oregon State we ended up getting games of football and soccer going on the quad and we got rained on really hard,” O’Driscoll said. “There was some leadership-development tucked in there, but it was really about having fun.”

To register for the conference go to Cost is $5.

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