The WiseGuyz Story

A few years ago, Calgary Sexual Health Centre began to see a critical need in the community. We recognized that most sexual health services were targeted to women, and that while teen pregnancy rates had dramatically dropped, STI rates continued to rise. We knew that domestic and sexual violence rates were also rising. We saw disturbing trends around the cultural and media messages about what it meant to be a man. We continued to see bullying and homophobia occurring in schools. Could there be a link? What were we teaching our young men, and how could we change the conversation? As a result of these questions, WiseGuyz was born. As an organization with a long-standing tradition of effective, innovative programs in our community, we saw an opportunity to deepen our impact and tackle an issue at its root.

See our story in an infographic.

What Happens at WiseGuyz?

WiseGuyz engages junior high boys in a weekly program that has four modules: human rights, sexual health, gender, and positive relationships. The program:

  • addresses the issues young men face and gives them tools to engage in healthy relationships;
  • helps young men understand the connection between masculinity and male norms, sexuality and violence;
  • provides targeted education, skills development, and support to young men to help them achieve sexual well-being and healthy relationships.

“It’s a laid-back class, but it teaches you a lot,” a 15 year old WiseGuyz participant, says, such as “how to keep a manly life but also be responsible and respectful,” and “how you can make a relationship better at a young age. It makes you think about how you are. It makes you look into the mirror. It just gets you thinking.” Globe and Mail article about WiseGuyz, April 21, 2012

The Impact

WiseGuyz not only has an impact on the boys themselves, but also their peers and the culture of the school itself, making it a place where students have empathy and stand up for each other. While there are short-term goals of encouraging healthy choices and better relationships, we know that long term this program has the potential to decrease bullying, homophobia and even domestic violence. We recognize that boys are half of the sexual health equation. We also know that many of them are under pressure to play masculine roles, which can lead to unhealthy sexual choices, bullying and even violence later in life. As one boy put it, “WiseGuyz makes me a better man and a responsible and healthy teenage boy.” By challenging stereotypes about masculinity, teaching them to respect themselves and others and giving them the skills to have healthy relationships, we can change a generation.

Investing in WiseGuyz

When you support WiseGuyz, you invest in the future of young men in Calgary. By challenging stereotypes about masculinity, teaching them to respect themselves and others and giving them the skills to have healthy relationships, we can change a generation.

New research points to young men as an integral part of violence prevention. Our goal for WiseGuyz is to demonstrate it as a best practice model for young men in the prevention of violence and the promotion of healthy sexuality. This has the potential to impact curriculum, as well as government policies related to sexual health and the prevention of sexual and domestic violence.

We recognize that boys are half of the sexual health equation. We also know that many of them are under pressure to play masculine roles, which can lead to unhealthy sexual choices, bullying and even violence later in life.

As one boy put it, “WiseGuyz makes me a better man and a responsible and healthy teenage boy.”

How To Give

  • Fill out a pledge form – we accept one-time donations in the form of cash, cheque, or credit card. We also accept pre-authorized payment by credit card or from your chequing account for monthly donations.
  • Donate online. Visit our online donation site through CanadaHelps to make your contribution now. 
  • Contact us directly. Interested in special projects? Gifts of securities? Giving through life insurance or estate planning? We’re here to help.

For more information or to talk to someone about your donation, contact:

Ashley Wilford-Matthews Resource Development Manager awilford-matthews@calgarysexualhealth.ca

WiseGuyz Report to the Community

When: February 21, 2014 – 9:30am to 11:00am Where: Kahanoff Centre – 105 12 Ave SE #200 Calgary, AB T2G 1A1

The Calgary Sexual Health Centre invites you to join us on Friday, February 21, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. at the Kahanoff Centre as our lead researcher and WiseGuyz facilitators report on the journey, the impact, and the future of WiseGuyz in our community.

WiseGuyz is a school-based program for grade 9 boys. “We create supportive environments where boys feel safe to examine their assumptions about what it means to be a man in the world today,” says Blake Spence, WiseGuyz Program Coordinator. Graduates of the program acquire the skills to be compassionate, empathetic and critical thinkers. What’s more, they are able to identify when they or someone they know is in an unhealthy relationship, and they are able to recognize and respond to aggressive or violent behaviours. “Gender inequity, homophobia, bullying and dating violence have been around for generations,” says Pam Krause, Executive Director of the Calgary Sexual Health Centre. “We’re excited to see WiseGuyz moving the needle on these complex issues.” Attendance is free. To register, go to http://www.calgarysexualhealth.ca/events/wiseguyz-report-community/ or call 403-283-5580 for more information.

WiseGuyz 2013 Awards and Recognitions We are thrilled to congratulate our own Blake Spence – program coordinator of our Wise Guyz program – on being selected as one of Avenue Magazine’s 2013 Top 40 Under 40! He is being recognized for his amazing work with the Wise Guyz program, as well as his entrepreneurial drive in other areas of his life. Read the full article here: http://www.avenuecalgary.com/top-40-under-40/blake-spence And another great moment of 2013 ► Our WiseGuyz program was recognized with 2nd place for the 2013 Helen & Fred Bentley Award for Excellence! Read all the details here:  http://www.cfsh.ca/About_CFSH/News-and-Events/news11261301.html     Congrats to Our Blake Spence- Top 40 Under 40 20120412_WiseGuys_06 We are thrilled to congratulate our own Blake Spence – program coordinator of our Wise Guyz program – on being selected as one of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40! He is being recognized for his amazing work with the Wise Guyz program, as well as his entrepreneurial drive in other areas of his life. Read the full article here: http://www.avenuecalgary.com/top-40-under-40/blake-spence

Healthy Relationships:  Leslie’s Story – WiseGuyz
“It’s all boys all the time,” laughs Leslie McRae, Vice Principal at Sherwood School.
Leslie McRae, Vice Principal at Sherwood School (photo credit: Evolution New Media)

Those boys are a small group of grade nine students taking part in the WiseGuyz program at the school. Once a week they meet in a designated classroom for part of the school day and Tristan from Calgary Sexual Health Centre facilitates the program. To someone peeking inside the classroom, sometimes it looks like a regular healthy sexuality class, sometimes it looks like boys roughhousing and joking around. But something more important is really going on. This is a program that teaches boys about consent and healthy relationships, not just STIs and anatomy. It’s challenging the boys’ views of masculinity and teaching them to look critically at the media messages they see every day. It’s tackling bullying and homophobia. It’s a program about respect and empathy. “This is really the only thing out there that’s just for boys,” says McRae. “It’s so important to have something directed just to them about things they wonder about, delivered by people who can address those things.”

“They have somebody who’s open to hearing things that they’re talking about and lets them be silly and ask weird questions.”

She recently saw the impact of the program when an RCMP officer came in to talk to the school. “It was a fairly deep presentation; he talks about things like suicide and bullying, family issues that you don’t talk about. The boys who stayed behind after the assembly to shake his hand and say thank you were the WiseGuyz..” “They grow from the program, and they feel more confident,” she says. “They start to look at bigger issues, rather than just ‘if it’s my issue’ – that’s really what I see from their actions.” McRae also says that one of the most unexpected outcomes for her is the bonds the boys make with one another: “There are boys who are friends because of the program who never would’ve been friends without it.” When asked why the boys want to be there and keep coming back, her answer is simple. “They know they’re valued,” she says. “For some boys it helps keep them in school, helps keep them engaged, helps keep them connected to somebody who, if or when things go south in the future, they have one more positive adult role model to look to.” McRae can’t say enough good things about the program and looks forward to working with WiseGuyz again in the new school year “It’s hard to be a teenager, whether you’re a girl or a boy,” says McRae. “The more people you have in your life telling you positive things, helping you be informed, creating a structure you can access resources from – it’s not such a big unknown world.”     How our WiseGuyz Program Began

A few years ago, the team at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre began to see a critical need in the community.

We recognized that most sexual health services were targeted to women, and that while teen pregnancy rates had dramatically dropped, STI rates continued to rise. We knew that domestic and sexual violence rates were also rising. We saw disturbing trends around the cultural and media messages about what it meant to be a man. We continued to see bullying and homophobia occurring in schools. Could there be a link? What were we teaching our young men, and how could we change the conversation? As a result of these questions, WiseGuyz was born.

As an organization with a long-standing tradition of effective, innovative programs in our community, we saw an opportunity to deepen our impact and tackle an issue at its root.

The WiseGuyz Program began in February 2010 with a focus to engage young men in a sexual health program that would address their specific needs. The research report we produced in 2008, Promoting Sexual Health for Young Men, confirmed that young men face significant barriers in accessing sexual health information.  We knew we had to learn the best method to present material and how to create a safe space for the group to discuss sexual health, relationships, and masculinity. Information was presented in styles ranging from a casual drop-in basis, to a facilitated group discussion, to a structured program.  We reached 52 young men in various settings during this phase of the project. After piloting the program in various settings, we decided that focusing on the junior high population would have the most impact.  The transition to high school is significant. If young men are equipped with tools to help them deal with the pressures, decisions and multiple stresses teens face in high school, we are confident that they will have better outcomes overall. The program is currently running in three public Junior High Schools in Calgary.     WiseGuyz Featured on CTV News In April 2013, our WiseGuyz program coordinator Blake Spence was interviewed by CTV News in the wake of the response to Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide. Blake discusses the concept of “rape culture” in our society and how our WiseGuyz program is working with young men to change it. Blake explains the importance of a program like WiseGuyz:

“There is a lot of work out there that has been focused on women’s reproductive health. There are lots of programs for young women available. But there aren’t the same number of programs for young men.

We wanted to fill that gap, and so the WiseGuyz program is a program for Grade 9 guys — 14- and 15-year-old guys — that teaches them what a healthy relationship is, all about sexual health, consent, what’s considered sexual assault. And how to have a healthy relationship now and in the future.”

Here’s the full clip from CTV News: Blake Spence speaks about WiseGuyz     Our WiseGuyz Program: Learn All About It! On April 10th, 2013 our WiseGuyz Program will be presented at the Calgary Domestic Violence Committee (CDVC) “Lunch & Learn” session Helping Guys Be Wise. Our WiseGuyz Program Coordinator, Blake Spence, will highlight his work with the WiseGuyz program and illustrate strategies to engage young men in the program. Our WiseGuyz Program began in February 2010 with a focus to engage young men in a sexual health program that would address their specific needs. WiseGuyz is a ground-breaking 14 week program that provides targets education, skills development and support to young men to help them achieve sexual well-being and healthy relationships. The program employs a comprehensive approach to sexual health that recognizes that sexuality and male gender norms influence young men’s attitudes, actions, relationships and their sexual experiences. The program curriculum addresses a range of topics including:

  • anatomy, birth control and STIs
  • gender and masculinity
  • human rights and personal values
  • effective communication
  • decision-making

Participants also analyze the highly sexualized pop cultural landscape that surrounds them in an effort to develop critical thinking skills about mass media. The program is currently running in three public Junior High Schools. It has been featured on CBC Radio One and as a cover story in the Globe and Mail.     WiseGuyz: Engaging Young Men in Sexual Health Programming Our own Blake Spence reflects on the first year of the WiseGuyz Program. The WiseGuyz Program began in February 2010 with a focus to engage young men in a sexual health program that would address their specific needs.  The research report we produced in 2008, Promoting Sexual Health for Young Men, confirmed that young men face significant barriers in accessing sexual health information.  We knew we had to learn the best method to present material and how to create a safe space for the group to discuss sexual health, relationships, and masculinity. Information was presented in styles ranging from a casual drop-in basis, to a facilitated group discussion, to a structured program.  We reached 52 young men in various settings during this phase of the project. After piloting the program in various settings, we decided that focusing on the junior high population would have the most impact.  The transition to high school is significant. If young men are equipped with tools to help them deal with the pressures, decisions and multiple stresses teens face in high school, we are confident that they will have better outcomes overall. Twenty-four grade 9 boys completed the program in 2010.  We are very proud of the program content, activities and skill building opportunities provided to the young men and the positive impact it is having. The WiseGuyz program reached 76 young men and partnered with 3 Junior High Schools. The first year of WiseGuyz has been amazing to be part of. We have created a program that I am extremely proud of as it is thoroughly enjoyed by participants and is fundamental to their development as responsible young men. Blake Spence WiseGuyz Program Coordinator

“I would like to thank you for bringing WiseGuyz to Sherwood School. The boys have spoken very positively about it, and appreciate (and adore) you and your efforts.  I suppose one sad thing is that the more work you do with these boys, the greater need we see for programming such as this to help young men develop healthy skills, relationships and accurate knowledge about sexual health issues.” – Alex McKay, Principal of Sherwood Community School