West Side students get peer assistance thanks to new support group

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Members of the Boys to Men Group listen at their April 17 meeting. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – When people of a certain age hear the phrase “Boys to Men,” chances are that they’ll think of a certain 1990s musical group from Philadelphia. However, for a group of West Side kids, that phrase has come to mean a new set of friends and adults who believe in their potential.

Organized by the Manchester Office of Youth Services in November, the Boys to Men teenage male support group has brought together several students from Manchester West High School to teach life skills, leadership and other concepts intended to grow self-esteem and character.

Mario Peña, Youth Counselor at the Office of Youth Services and one of the facilitators of the group, helped create the project as a way for students to find positive male role models they may not have otherwise had in their lives.

“We sought to identify kids who might really benefit from being part of a group like this,” he said. “The idea is to help them become leaders, and you can see the kids becoming more confident, more vocal, talking with us about what they’re seeing in their schools and talking with themselves.”

While Peña says that he and teachers at West have seen the participants in the group improve their grades, they’ve also engaged in charity efforts and worked on presentations for leadership conferences as well as an upcoming event where members of the group will become mentors to younger children at Gossler Park Elementary School.

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A look at the agenda from the April 17 meeting. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Angel Ramos, a junior at West, attends the group each week during a study hall and says that the popularity of the group has led to an upcoming girls’ version of the group that will be modeled on their experience over the past few months.

“At first, I didn’t really know people in the group that well, but I gained trust and I learned that I can talk to all of these people if I have something going on or I feel down or I have ideas for the group,” said Ramos. “I think we’ve all gotten way closer and I think folks at West have begun talking about the group.”

Sophomore Samuel Cruz thought he was in trouble when he was first summoned to the office to see if he wished to be incorporated into the group. Since then though, he says that it has been a positive experience.

“You may have known these guys before you came in here, but not like you do now,” he said. “You really get to know people and know what’s in their head, some become like a brother. I feel like I’m taking a chance on them and they’re taking a chance on me and we’re helping each other see stuff and gain different perspectives.”

More information on the Office of Youth Services can be found at the City of Manchester website.

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Mario Peña talks to the Boys to Men peer group. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

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About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.