Learning to Survive
The second part of Boys Will Be Men focuses on two stories that offer hope. In the high desert of southwestern Idaho, six boys participate in a three-week therapeutic wilderness program. These are boys who have been exhibiting risky behavior, but they are not hard core-delinquents. In many ways, they are like any boy on the verge of manhood, for whom growing up seems suddenly overwhelming.
At first, many of them are angry and resentful at finding themselves cut off from friends, family and everything familiar. But they are also given the tools, the knowledge, and a very clear framework for survival: How to stay warm. How to prepare food. How to build a shelter. The gradual mastering of tasks leads to a measure of self-sufficiency; independence builds self-esteem. At the same time, the need for cooperation with others in order to survive builds an interdependent community in which the students learn accountability.
When staff hold boys accountable for their actions within a framework of honest care and concern, the impact is remarkable. It gives the boys the strength to face their fears on a tough ropes course and, finally, to come together as a trained and tested search and rescue team. They leave with the experiential evidence that they do matter, that they can achieve, and that they can be a valuable member of a community or family.