On the Voyage from ‘Boys to Men,’ a Bit of Talking Along the Way Helps
Every Monday after school, a dozen or so boys sit down with Arnold D. Cox at Springfield Housing Authority’s John J. Duggan Park Apartments to discuss weighty issues like responsibility, respect, the importance of education, and resisting temptations.
The group, known as ‘Boys to Men,’ range in age from 6 to 13, and are gearing up – even armoring themselves – for the years just in front of them, when outside influences pulling them in a bad direction may become strong.
Cox, a certified counselor and the owner of ADC Prevention Services, helps provide an array of after-school and summer programs at four SHA locations, including Duggan. He blends in this measure of group counseling in at each location as a way to boost confidence skills among a most vulnerable group: Boys living in poverty.
“We’ve got a broad curriculum,” explained Cox, who grew up in public housing himself and knows the struggles that can bring.
“We talk about a wide array of issues that face kids in this kind of environment. There are so many negative influences out there. We encourage our young people to persevere in a tough world, and we especially target the boys,” he said.
For 7-year-old Coryn Sullivan, the Monday sessions are a bright spot in his week.
“I always like coming to meet with AC,” said Coryn, referring to the initials children use to address Cox.
“I like it because we learn about respect. We learn how to be kind to people, not be a bully,” he said.
On a recent Monday, Cox began ‘Boys to Men’ with instructions for each participant to write three of their most pressing issues on pieces of paper. When that was done, he went through the pile, randomly pulling out scraps that listed things like ‘homework,’ ‘chores’ and ‘friends.’
Discussion went deeper, with Cox digging below the surface to underlying issues like parental respect, establishing healthy habits, and, perhaps most importantly, staying away from trouble.
Andriel Rivera said he appreciates the time talking with Cox and his friends.
“This is cool,” said the 10-year-old. “I get to hang out with my friends and we talk about being nice to people, stuff like that.”
Cox has more on the group’s agenda than talking. This winter, he plans to bring them ice skating and skiing.
And then there’s the budding entrepreneurial component, explained by 8-year-old Giovanni Mendez.
“We’re going to have a store,” Giovanni said, obviously looking forward to it. “We’re going to sell candy and healthy snacks.”
Giovanni reiterated what others in the group said – the sessions are an ongoing reminder about the importance of growing up right, and acting on that now.
“It’s good here. We always talk about doing the right things, and doing good things – fun stuff,” he said.