Nurturing 'Young Men' in Lake Oswego
High school boys and their moms stay connected in an organization dedicated to community service
Its amazing what young men can accomplish when they have the support of their moms.
Thats one of the theories, at least, behind the new Lake Oswego chapter of the National League of Young Men (NLYM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing leaders through community service, charity work and cultural education. The chapter already has 170 members from Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, Wilsonville and Jesuit high schools.
Everyone is excited, says Marlene Aviles-Cable, one of three moms who helped to organize the chapter. I think were going to see a transformation in our schools. Were going to see more leaders. It has been so much fun getting this going.
Aviles-Cable says the idea for an NLYM chapter came to her last April, at a point when both she and her 15-year-old son, Presley, were at a crossroads. Presley was active in sports at Lake Oswego High School, but his mom thought he needed something different to bring out his best.
I wanted something where boys could get together in a noncompetitive atmosphere and work together, Aviles-
Cable says. There was already the rivalry between Lake Oswego and Lakeridge kids. I wanted to give them the opportunity to see each other as people.
Presley had started to lose contact with his friends who didnt play sports, Aviles-Cable says. And he started to lose his connection to his mom, too.
Boys start to disconnect with their mothers at this age, she says.
So Aviles-Cable started searching for inspiration. Thats when she found the National League of Young Men, an organization for mothers and sons that had just started a new chapter in Washington. And she also found that others in Lake Oswego were searching for the same thing.
The person (Karen Holman) I was talking to in California told me that Janet Ramey had also contacted her that week, Aviles-Cable says. It was so strange. I thought, We need to do this today!
Ramey and fellow Lake Oswego resident Leslie Bridwell had been seeking an organization for boys that resembled the National Charity League, an organization for mothers and daughters that has been hugely successful in Lake Oswego for decades. Both Ramey and Bridwell had daughters who were active in NCL.
I said, I wish we had something like NCL for boys, and my contact said, We do, Ramey says.
While watching their sons baseball games, the three moms devised a plan to send out emails and go through the Lake Oswego High phone book to seek likely prospects. That effort quickly spread to neighboring schools.
It happened so quickly when the word got out, Ramey says. Once people found out about it, they said, Lets all do that.
One of the keys to the chapters success was the addition of Coventry Boucher, a mom who wasnt sure she wanted to join the new organization at first. Now she is its president, and Aviles-Cable raves about what she has done for the new chapter.
Coventry was the crucial piece, because she brought in the Lakeridge side, Aviles-Cable says. Coventry is an amazing person. She represented the organization so well that we asked her to be president. Now its her life.
Boucher says its easy to see why the league has received such a strong response.
I think NLYM supports a desire in the community to raise young men who are civic minded, comfortable with leadership and compassionate toward others, she says. Young men get really busy in high school with academics and sports or other personal activities, and NLYM provides a focused way to get boys together to find how to grow up in other ways.
I think we also tapped a desire to let our young men know there can be more to their stories than their report cards and trophies, Boucher adds. Theyll find that one of lifes great pleasures is helping others.
The group held its first official meeting in February and has already had a big impact on the community, according to Ramey.
The kids helped Northwest Childrens Outreach by collecting a huge pile of clothes, she says, and the mothers and sons have compiled a list of other places where they hope to do good: Oregon Food Bank, Friends of Trees, Grow Portland and the Autism Society of Oregon.
This is something different that Lake Oswego has not had, Bridwell says. The manpower of young men can be utilized and leadership can be developed.
Niki Stewart, whose son, Andrew, is a NLYM member, agrees with Bridwell.
I really look forward to watching each young man blossom into the person he is meant to become, Stewart says. These boys will be stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone by serving the community and developing empathy for people through philanthropy and cultural events.
My son, like most of the boys in our group, was unsure of adding yet another item to his plate, she adds. But he has embraced the opportunity.
The National League of Young Men is designed for boys in grades 9-12; it now has 11 chapters in Oregon, Washington and California, with more than 1,500 members. For more information about the Lake Oswego chapter, go to nlymlakeoswego.org.