Courageous Conversation: Impact the community and businesses can have on young boys

Everyone's Child

If you’re wondering how can you help combat the violence issue with young boys, the good news is you don’t have to go far and even a small gesture can help.

Rick Hughlett is a dad and a grandfather.

“When I was a young father, I needed a little bit of training myself,” Hughlett said.

He’s the owner of Rick’s Automotive in Springfield. It’s an auto repair shop, but it’s much more than just a place to get your car fixed. It’s a place where young men can learn, be shaped and molded by mentors and eventually become mentors themselves.

“We work with OTC and bring in their students that graduate out of the automotive program and we can team them up with our senior guys,” Hughlett said.

He says as a business owner it’s important to step up.

“They have all this knowledge,” Hughlett said. “We can bring the students in on a lower level, train them up to be a good tech, team them up with our senior guys – they work together. Iron sharpens iron, I like to say. It works both ways but you’re also instilling your beliefs and values and how you approach life in general as you you’re doing that.”

Hughlett says a few encouraging words can change everything.

“They’re also kind of helping these students on their way to a better life,” Hughlett said. “It’s a blessing to me because I’ve got students that have been with me, we’ve taken out of OTC that was 19 years old and we watch them as they get married, have kids, buy a house and you know, become productive members of the community. If we don’t have good homes, I mean that’s our future customers that’s our future employees. So, it is an impact to us, both ways. If we help improve that, that’s going to make a bigger picture – a better picture – for the whole business community.

But he says helping foster good values in boys and young men isn’t just his responsibility, it’s also the community’s.  

“It’s very important because our business is within a community and people don’t do business with businesses they do business with people,” Hughlett said. “Yes, you have to make money, you have to make a profit, make the world go around and stay in business, but your true joys that you get is watching your employees prosper and grow up to become, you know, very responsible citizens of the community.”

Kunti Bentley is the project coordinator for Project Heal. It’s a program to help reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking.

“Why is it that, you know, it’s so hard for boys and young men to deal with their feelings, to communicate with their peers and their loved ones when they’re having a hard time when they’re struggling with some kind of an issue or incident,” Bentley said.

She says part of the problem is the expectation of boys growing up to be manly, instead of getting rid of the stigma and asking them how they feel.  

“We need to invite these young men and boys to the table, that they know that we have resources available to them, should they be dealing with some kind of a harmful incident,” Bentley said.

So how do you, a member of the community with or without kids, help instill values in these young boys? Well, it’s simple.  

“I know we hear it takes a village and that’s kind of a stereotyped term but it really is true,” Bentley said. “It takes our whole community.”

“It could be a neighbor that you see struggling, or maybe the father’s not in the home and just to lend a little bit of your knowledge to them, it’s priceless what it does for that child over a lifetime,” Hughlett said.

“This really is the entire community’s responsibility this is not for the professional prevention educators. It takes everybody,” Bentley said.

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