Men’s Empowerment at Catalyst

Troy Morris never planned on becoming a teacher. He went to Columbia College in Chicago with the dream of one day telling stories by writing films. He got his master’s degree in English. After graduating with that degree, a friend of his told him that the school that he worked for – Catalyst Circle Rock – was looking for instructional aids. Troy applied, got the job, and started to work at Catalyst Circle Rock and his plans changed.

Within that first week of working at Catalyst, he fell in love with teaching, especially kids at the early teenager age-group level. He was good at it too! He soon started to instruct his own classes and enjoyed teaching writing to a new generation of kids.

Catalyst Circle Rock has many amazing clubs and programs to empower students. There is one that is specifically for the school’s young women – Young Ladies of Distinction. However, there was no male counterpart, as there had not been enough male staff to lead such an endeavor. That’s where Troy came in. As a new teacher who the students loved so much, he was asked to run a male-only event. He accepted and organized Catalyst’s first Male Empowerment Lock-In.

This event took place from Friday until Saturday afternoon last spring. It was filled with empowering workshops and speakers. In one of the workshops, students learned about African tribal masks and created some of their own. In another powerful session, the young men read the concerns of anonymous young women from their school and discussed how they, as young men, could best address them each day. Throughout each session, one theme that kept popping up was that the students feel like, as young, mostly African American men, they have the weight of low expectations bearing down on them. They want to be seen as the young scholars that they are. This was powerful for the men to talk about as a group.  Outside of these discussions, the lock-in also included open gym, bubble soccer, a family-style dinner, and an all-night snack table (where they ran out of snacks!).

Next year, Troy is looking forward to going  one step further and making the male-empowerment community a more regular meeting occurrence with a club just like the young women do.