MADISON – National research shows that boys make up 75 to 80 percent of the juvenile justice system and commit suicide four times more often than girls. U.S. colleges now have the lowest male enrollment in the country’s history.

To explore these trends, recent research on male socialization and development and ways to help at-risk adolescent boys succeed, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies (DCS) will host a second annual “Boys at Risk” conference on Monday and Tuesday, June 18-19, in Oconomowoc, Wis.

Conference Director Flo Hilliard, a DCS faculty associate, says that when she began looking into treatment of at-risk boys, she realized that little research focused on gender differences. Many developmental issues have only been researched in terms of adolescents as a whole.

So last year, she created the “Boys at Risk” conference to find ways to help troubled young men in the age range of 9-21. About 300 people attended last year’s conference, and Hilliard is expecting more participants this year.

“We had an overwhelming response (last year) for the one day – obviously people were hungry for this information,” she says. This year’s conference will span two days and will include information on how to best raise and treat high-risk boys.

Workshop topics include working with boys on probation, the impact of trauma on boys and racial disparities in criminal justice. Rawhide Boys Ranch, a residential care center for troubled boys, will direct a session about how it creates lasting positive behavior in at-risk boys. Another session will focus on kinetic education as a way to help at-risk boys.

Running Rebels, a program in Milwaukee for high-risk, African-American boys who have been arrested for a gun possession, will present another session. Hilliard says the program has a more than 75 percent success rate. A session titled “Walk one hour in my shoes” will focus on the Latino community, and another session is devoted to the experiences of Native American boys.

Keynote speaker Leonard Sax will present “Boys Adrift: Five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and lazy young men,” and will also speak about the role of ADHD and other conditions in underachieving boys. Jackson Katz, also a keynote speaker, will discuss the role of the media in shaping the norms of male culture. Hilliard says the media has made men so hyper-masculine that it’s not okay for a boy to show emotion; he has to be tough.

The conference will be held at the Olympia Resort and Conference Center in Oconomowoc, Wis. and is open to the public. Registration and fee information can be found on the conference Web site at
http://www.dcs.wisc.edu/pda/wwen or by contacting Chris Dunleavy at (608) 265-4267. Walk-in registration at the conference will also be accepted.
– Brescia Cassellius,
[email protected]