The Berwick Boys Foundation is a year-round effort to help teenage boys develop physically, mentally, and morally through experience in living and working with their peers.
In recent years the problems of the “teen years” have drawn nationwide attention as an area of special concern. The transition from adolescence to manhood is not an easy one, in spite of the many modern conveniences we enjoy. The development of self-reliance and self-discipline during adolescence is a difficult job and requires guidance from home, church, school, and people of good character. Berwick is an endeavor to help boys develop into socially-minded responsible young men. Only by living and working together can boys learn to understand and respect one another and thus make a real contribution to the world.
As part of the normal “growing up” process adolescents tend to resist regimented activities and attempt to distinguish themselves as individuals, independent from the group. Each boy should see himself as a part of the group and each must receive equal opportunity and guidance in achieving his goals. Cooperative living in a community run by boys is an integral part of the Berwick program in the hope that these young men will learn to share their experiences with each other. A community of boys also offers each the chance to feel that he is taking part in formulating the rules and regulations which apply to all – imparting an awareness of the need for fairness. Berwick provides the opportunity to learn through experience. Learning by making your own mistakes is an invaluable experience.
The Berwick program encourages boys to develop self-reliance and self-discipline, and at the same time to realize that independence cannot be divorced from responsibility. It is designed to help each boy live up to his best potential, and to experience the elation that comes from solving a challenging problem or accomplishing a difficult task or special project. Berwick also affords the opportunity for boys to be part of a community of peers, to make new friends or to strengthen old friendships, to appreciate the joy that comes from working together and giving their skills and talents, to assist the group, and respecting the skills of his peers, even if they may be different from his. Berwick’s philosophy is that hard work, independence, codependence and a self-governing society or peer pressure oriented structure can, while teaching boys specific, practical skills can also build boys into responsible, determined and socially minded, contributing adults.
Berwick also provides boys an opportunity to associate closely with older boys and people of good moral character. Boys of college age are acutely aware of the problems of teen years and often can offer invaluable insight and advice to younger boys. An important part of Berwick is the chance to grow up in the program and then help others to have the same experience.
Educational stimulus is added to the program by the rule that any boy who wants to continue in Berwick must have grades equal to, or better than, the pervious year. Scholarships are given to deserving boys as they graduate from high school and enter the college or trade school of their choice. Teenagers are hard to inspire in terms of academic achievement, often because of the lack of early direction towards long term goals. The Berwick program helps boys become acquainted with many skills and professions in the hope that these boys will find a type of work they enjoy and direct their educational aims accordingly.
During the summer each boy rates his peers on the qualities of persistence, altruism, and sincerity – the traits most valued in a young man. The results of these ratings are presented to the boys individually at summer’s end. Scholarship boys are not required to be excellent students. They should do their best and live up to their capabilities, whatever they may be. This philosophy of evaluating boys on both ability and character is proving very successful and is helping many worthy boys attend college or trade schools.
The rugged outdoor life affording physical and mental development remains an important part of Berwick. Hard work and sweat can be a rewarding experience, particularly when it is the result of work on a useful project done as part of a group. Oftentimes the boys will work well into the night to finish a task they have set out to do and it is often these long hard hours which are remembered as the most rewarding.