While his eighth-grade female students were whisked off once a year to a well-organized seminar aimed at providing them direction for the future, Steamboat Springs Middle School Principal Tim Bishop struggled to come up with a comparable program for his male students.
For several years, Bishop and Assistant Principal Jerry Buelter organized career days for eighth-grade boys, opportunities for them to listen to and ask questions of local professionals in a variety of fields.
"It was good, but it didn't compare to what the girls were doing," Bishop said last week. "We didn't have the time or the resources."
For the past six years, the female students have attended the Girls to Women/Women to Girls seminar, an all-day conference for local eighth-graders. Sponsored by the Women's Foundation of Colorado, organized by local volunteers and funded by local businesses, the seminar has been a rousing success since its inception.
Last week, with the help of a team of volunteer organizers, eighth-grade boys from the middle school attended the first Boys2Men conference.
Held on the Colorado Mountain College campus and attended by more than 100 students and 16 local professionals representing a variety of careers, Boys2Men took a new approach to career day. Instead of introducing young men to different professions and jobs available to them, Boys2Men focused on emphasizing eight attributes deemed essential to success in life.
"It's a great message," said science teacher Brad Kindred, who chaperoned one of eight groups of students to the four seminars they attended Tuesday.
Young adults are bombarded with career choices too often at such a young age, he said, making Tuesday's focus on attributes for success a new and important message for them to hear.
"We wanted to speak to issues that were more important than just a career," said Chad James, a consultant who helped organize the event. "People's jobs don't define who they are; their virtues and characteristics do."
The group of professionals, which included a dentist, firefighters, an Army recruiter, a dancer, a bank president and athletics coaches, split into two-man teams and used a variety of questions and activities to address particular attributes with small groups of eighth-graders.
The attributes that were the focus of the day included teamwork, perseverance, maturity, well-roundedness, compassion, service, honesty and responsibility.
Many of the boys who attended the conference expected a focus on careers but were nonetheless interested by the day's message.
"I thought it was going to just be people telling us about their jobs," student Andy Mucklow said. "But it's about different traits, not different jobs."
Bryce Peters said he left Tuesday's conference having received a particular message: "Be responsible in managing your life's responsibilities," he said. He also learned what it means to be well-rounded as a person.
"This has been a lot of fun," said James, who was joined by volunteers Karen Bomberg, Dawn Gordon and Kelly Ehrick in organizing the Boys2Men conference. "It's neat just for the boys to spend time with some of the brightest, most successful men in the community."
In addition to attending four seminars, the boys ate lunch on the CMC campus, watched a slide show prepared by Jay Whaley and participated in a visuals workshop. CMC-Alpine Campus Dean Robert Ritschel opened the conference with a short speech to the boys emphasizing the need to "seize the day," or, as he said in Latin, "Carpe diem."
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