NNSL Photo/Graphic

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FOXY sets its sights on boys
Sexual education through art seeks to evolve and reach more young people

Sarah Ladik
Northern News Services
Thursday, February 11, 2016

While Fostering Open eXpression among Youth, or FOXY as it's more commonly known, is a regular feature in schools across the territory for girls, soon boys will have their own version.

NNSL photo/graphic

Executive director Candice Lys, centre, says FOXY is a program designed to teach girls about healthy relationships and sex through art and will soon be running something similar for boys in the territory. - photo courtesy of Candice Lys

"Boys want it to happen," said Ken McKay, one of the two men who travelled with FOXY to Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta last week to interview educators, community leaders and others who work with young men to see what they would want in a program. "I got two boys. As they grow up, I want them to have a safe place where they can ask anything. This program, it will help."

FOXY promotes healthy discussions about relationships and sexuality through art, and an - as yet to be named - boys' program would do the same.

While Keith MacNeill, the other man to travel with FOXY, said boys tend to be more activity-oriented than girls, there is still room for creative pursuits.

"I think guys are universally motivated by land and outdoor activities," he said. "In a lot of cases, they are interested in the cultural elements, and they're still into the arts as well . Ken suggested today doing something with carving, and their eyes just lit up."

FOXY founders Candice Lys and Nancy MacNeill said they have been hearing from the very beginning that boys needed a similar program and they are more than pleased to be taking the next step towards making it happen.

"We're always hearing that boys wanted to be a part of it," MacNeill said, telling a story about a Grade 7 boy in Fort Smith who ran up to her and asked, all in one breath, if he could come to the session. "They want it so bad. All they really know about it is how the girls feel coming out."

Lys said the team is visiting communities in every region to talk to people of all genders working with boys, asking their input for the program. While it can be hard to involve men in that kind of work, she said it's all about knowing the right people in town and working out from there.

"Sometimes research is as easy as just asking," said FOXY executive director Candice Lys. "If you need help, just ask for it, which is the message of FOXY as well."

As for young people who don't find themselves in either gender camp, Lys said they take it on a case-by-case basis.

"Now that we're expanding, our applications will have a line for gender and they can fill in what they like," she said, adding that the organizers have made a conscious effort to change how they speak, going from "foxy girls" to "foxy folks" or "foxy peeps."

"It depends on what's going to be best for individuals. FOXY is on a learning curve too," Lys said.

The program is still looking for input from all over the territory to get a better sense of what boys need.

"Any input we can get will get added to the mix," said Keith MacNeill. "It will help make the program supportive and helpful as possible for young men. It's a tough time of life."

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