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November 28, 2012
The car’s GPS was unsure where to take us; it said we were on a restricted usage road, but what it really wanted to tell us was that we were out of our minds trying to drive to the Naval Observatory, otherwise known as the Vice President’s Residence. I shared the gadget’s queasiness. I had never even been to that part of DC before, had never seen the rows of giant embassies, never realized that DC even had enough room for that many trees. I was in a suit bought specifically for meeting Vice President Biden, I was in a car driving past security checks with Jason Page, the Mentor of my Men of Strength (MOST) Club at Ballou High School, and Ernest, a MOST Club member at Jefferson Middle School, and I was more nervous than I thought possible. Guys like me aren’t supposed to be in Northwest DC, aren’t supposed to meet the Vice President, and certainly aren’t supposed to discuss with him ways to engage youth in preventing violence…
MOST Club and Men Can Stop Rape have had a huge impact on my life and the lives of young men from Washington, DC, to Hawaii, from Montana to Florida, and all places in between. I believe every young man should have the chance to be a MOST Club member. If the knowledge and opportunities MOST Club gave me were available to every young man, we would be living in a much healthier and much less violent society.
That’s the dream, but here’s the reality: We need your help to positively impact young men like me. We need your help to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. We need your help to make our schools safe and nurturing spaces for growth and learning. Our schools need more Men of Strength to walk the hallways and you can put them there with a generous donation to Men Can Stop Rape. You can sponsor one MOST Club member for one year with a $1,250 donation, which supports weekly meetings, community strength projects, MOST Club gear, and access to paid internships, conferences, and special events. Your sponsorship will be recognized in our Annual Report and you can give larger gifts at the following levels:
That scene sticks out to me when I think back on my time in MOST Club, but what is more important are all the small things that led up to that night. I joined MOST Club my sophomore year in high school based on an introduction by a school staff member and the promise of free pizza. The pizza got me in the room, but the real discussions about masculinity and how to be strong without being violent kept me coming back week after week. With my own father not being very involved in my life, it impacted me incredibly to have a man like Jason in my life to teach me healthy masculinity and hold me accountable when I stumbled. Being able to have honest discussions with other MOST Club members about sexual assault, relationship violence, safer sex, and other health issues helped make me a better man with a desire to change the world. The skills I learned through presenting to my peers on healthy masculinity, planning Community Strength Projects, and practicing positive bystander intervention helped make me a better man with the ability to change the world.
Men Can Stop Rape’s Executive Director Neil Irvin always tells me that nobody ever leaves MOST Club, that I will always be a Man of Strength. I plan to prove him right as I enter school this spring to study social work and psychology. Though I have big plans for myself, I always think back to that moment in the car, my nervousness as we stood in line to talk to Vice President Biden, how small I felt in that unfamiliar place. But then I remember the smile I had when Jason dropped me off at home that night. I learned that though many will tell you there are places where you can never go, sometimes you need to ignore the voice that tells you to turn around.
P.S. The Atlantic recently covered Men Can Stop Rape's work and impact on young men like me across the country. Read the article and please give today to strengthen the work of MOST Club. Remember that December is your last chance to donate in 2012. Please send checks to Men Can Stop Rape, 1003 K Street NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20001
Men Can Stop Rape is an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) organization (Tax ID #52-2007652).