Establishing connectedness, trust and accountability
Who we are
The Boys Club Network (‘BCN’ or the ‘Network’) is a privately-funded registered Canadian charity (Westcoast Boys Club Network Foundation) founded and operated by a committed team of BC secondary school administrators, teachers, counsellors, youth and wellness workers; funded by a small group of visionary Canadian philanthropist entrepreneurs, and supported by a Network of +200 mentors from all walks of life. All of our programs and services are based on the foundational principles of mentorship and connection, as tools for teaching, healing and prevention. We are working with 12 BC School districts currently (three coming online), and have engaged and mentored thousands of boys.
BCN tackles one of contemporary Canada’s most misunderstood and undersupported social issues – that of young men aged 12-18 seeking connection. BCN identifies and lifts these lost boys up, and with a proven curricula of Hope, Opportunity, Positive Mentorship and Education, restores their personal accountability; and their confidence in themselves, in adults, and in society’s collective future. BCN operates, funds and/or facilitates:
- After-school clubs (chapters)
- BAA Curriculum (in school credit course) ‘H.O.P.E. for Boys Leadership’
- Summer camps
- Post-secondary scholarships
- Networked access to support services
An alarming percentage (+/- 15% in BC according to BCN educators) of the more than five million students enrolled in Canadian elementary and secondary schools are boys seeking connection with and positive mentorship from adult male role models; and seeking connection with a structured, nurturing community of other young men.
The percentage remains consistent through all ages and socio-economic groups, though contributing factors vary. These young men and their unique time-and-space-related circumstances are for the most part floating aimlessly in a sea of more publicized, well-funded social issues.
Why we exist
These young men (sons, brothers, caregivers) are high-potential Canadian boys and young adults who, through mere circumstance are at risk of losing their innocence, happiness, mental wellness and basic human potential, to hopelessness, unrealized education, underachievement, substance abuse as self-medication, negative social and/or illegal behaviours, and in some cases homelessness.
Contemporary society has unwittingly, in many cases, left boys behind. When the opportunity pendulum swung far in one direction in an attempt to close the large gap that existed between opportunities, initiatives and programs available for girls versus those traditionally available for boys, many boys fell through the cracks.
The social and economic constructs that held girls back, changed quite rapidly on balance, and across many verticals in homes, in education, in the workplace, in media, and in popular culture. The cumulative net consequences of these new constructs are just now being understood, and in some areas have complex consequences for boys. See Why Boys.
Social media, while innovative and powerful as communications tools, skews boys’ view of the world, themselves, women, education, success, and what constitutes ‘healthy’ and ‘normal’. Left unchecked and unchallenged, misperceptions can have devastating consequences.
Technological innovation and the global economy have changed the workplace profoundly, drastically reducing the number of so-called ‘traditional’ living-wage jobs available to boys who do not pursue post-secondary education. These and many other factors of life today continue to impact many boys’ ability to thrive; to access and embrace hope, and fulfill their human potential.
Hopefully, opportunities and representation equalize in Canadian society, but in the interim we must recognize and mitigate the gaps, help disconnected boys find their way, find themselves, and finish school. We must help them channel disconnection, isolation, passivity, frustration, anger, and destructive behaviours, into a brighter future defined by connection, engagement, hopefulness, responsibility, productivity and empathy
Ideally, BCN provides active and consistent connection with boys from late middle school years through to secondary school graduation. Optimally, BCN’s engagement remains constant from grades seven/eight through the transition from secondary graduation, to post-secondary graduation (to 22/23 years of age) — more specifically from the onset of the teenage brain, to the engagement of the adult brain.
Who supports us
Currently the Network operates independently with the cooperation of school districts in Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey, Courtenay, Maple Ridge, Burnaby, and Nelson (plus three in-process) British Columbia. BCN works with leaders in Aboriginal Education to ensure that the particular needs of young First Nations’ male students are considered both integrally and uniquely in all chapter, curriculum and summer camp offerings.
Now in its 11th year providing mentorship, opportunity and education, the Network includes 15 BCN chapters offering Clubs or BAA Curriculum, or both, and hopes to expand and reach out to the many more at-risk Lower Mainland and district youth waiting for a place in the program. Currently, BCN operates four summer camps, in North/West Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, and Abbotsford.
The Network relies solely on private donations from visionary individuals and community leaders, and in-kind support and assistance from stakeholders like BCIT, The Foundry, The Vancouver Police Department, The RCMP, United Nations Women (UN global champion of gender equality), The Squamish First Nation, The Vault Studio/Face of Today, WE Day, BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and district school boards throughout the province of British Columbia. The Network enjoys the full support of the BC Ministry of Education; ERASE and other Ministry-led safe and thriving schools initiatives.
Does it work?
Thanks to the support of our funders, supports and mentors, cost is never a barrier to participation in any Network program or service. Schools, school districts, educators and boys participate at no cost, in any or all BCN programs. The BAA curriculum course ‘H.O.P.E. for Boys Leadership’ – authored by 18 educators and BCN stakeholders – is in its third year of post-secondary operation and has just graduated its first cohort. Abbotsford, West Vancouver and North Vancouver school districts have approved the curriculum.
Feedback from our chapter leaders, educators and administrators suggests that the BCN formula works for BC boys, and that 95% more-or-less of boys actively involved in BCN chapters experience a life-changing gain in human potential. Almost all boys graduate from high school with a positive and plausible life plan, often with a plan for post-secondary education. This translates to an incalculable benefit to society.
If boys do not understand and value themselves and their human potential, and make enduring connections with positive adult male mentors and role models within their primary spheres of influence (family, school), they will seek connection elsewhere. Elsewhere can be dangerous, damaging, devastating.
What about girls? Many of our most vocal advocates and popular mentors are women. At a recent Canadian symposium at which BCN presented, attended by educational leaders from all districts and strata, a Simon Fraser University professor took the microphone and shared relevant highlights from her experiences over 30 years studying adolescent girls. She concluded with an ask and recommendation to BCN that, when an individual or organization asks what the Network is doing for girls, the answer must be ‘the Boys Club Network’.
What’s in a name? The boys named the club themselves, a dozen years ago, in keeping with the cultural of after-school clubs operating at the time – Aboriginal Club, Girls Club, Drama Club, Math Club. We added the word Network to the name, as a descriptor of our core philosophy and tenets when we registered as a Canadian foundation in 2013.
BCN is not the only answer or solution; rather one arrow in a quiver of many checks and balances needed along the road to building an equitable society.
If you are interested in initiating a Boys Club Network chapter in your community school, adopting the BAA Curriculum, inquiring about summer camp, or donating to the foundation, we would be grateful to receive your inquiry via email.
To share wisdom from our mentors and keep up with what the Network is up to, follow us on Instagram @boysclubnetwork. Subscribe to our newsletter.