He Matters Conference helps boys become men
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 09:18

Program helps boys learn about becoming men

by John G. Bailey

    There is no “how-to” textbook on becoming a man.
    For boys without strong role models or a stable home life, learning to grow up is a crapshoot, a trial-and-error process, frought with peril.
    That is the genesis of the fourth annual He Matters “Power of One” Conference, being held Saturday, July 20, at CCBC Dundalk. The event exposes boys ages 7 to 17 to positive adult male mentoring through five workshops designed to instill healthy concepts of manhood in participants.
    In a phone interview with The Eagle, He Matters committee chair Keith Penn-Jones explained that the conference evolved  as an adaptation of the successful She Matters “Empowerment for Girls” conferences after parents suggested a similar program for boys.
    He Matters “Power of One” stresses development of individual character. “We tell young men that better families and communities start with you,” Penn-Jones explained. “If you work hard, you can change your situation.”
    During the day-long conference, each boy participates in workshops entitled Health and Fitness, Money Matters, Head of the Class, Steps to Success and Education is Cool, facilitated by men with expertise in each field.
    Penn-Jones emphasized that the men who participate as role models in the conference do so as volunteers.
    Education is Cool is the most popular of the four seminars. Set up to introduce boys to different vocational possibilities, particpants rotate though stations, talking one-on-one with professional men from a variety of career fields.

According to surveys filled out by boys during past conferences, well over 90 percent of participants have been satisfied with the “He Matters” program. 
    Ancedotes that Penn-Jones related also indicate success.
    A mother reported her son’s infatuation with juice-making after his  introduction to natural foods at last year’s Health and Nutrition workshop. “The next thing I know, he’s making juices for the whole neighborhood,” she told Penn-Jones.
    After listening to U.S. Rep. Elijah Commings of Baltimore, who was the keynote speaker at the 2011 workshop, a 14-year-old young man talked to Penn-Jones for 20 minutes about the federal bailout of banks. “He was intrigued about bailouts,” Penn-Jones remembers. “Listening to the congressman expanded his horizons.”
    The dean of CCBC Dundalk, Tanya Jones, recommended the school as this year’s conference site after her son’s positive experience with the program.
    The many past attendees who have returned to subsequent conferences also attest to the program’s success.
    The cost of the He Matters “Power of One” Conference this year at CCBC is $25 before Monday, July 1, and $30 from Tuesday, July 2, to Friday, July 19. The cost at the door is $35. To register, visit www.hematters.net or call 410-235-2119.
    According to Penn-Jones, 98 percent of the money generated by entrance fees is used for developing future conferences. Additional funding comes from donations from individuals and businesses. The He Matters organization, hosted by A Step Closer, is a non-profit agency.
    Running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the conference opens with an address by keynote speaker and former Harlem Globtrotter Charles “Choo” Smith Jr.  Following the workshops, nine young men will be honored with achievement, character and community awards to end the day.
    To nominate an awards candidate or for more information, visit www.hematters.net or call 410-235-2119.