NAUGATUCK — Sixty boys from the borough’s middle and intermediate schools sat spread out in the auditorium at Naugatuck High School last Tuesday morning, although it didn’t take long before they were out of their seats and their shells.
The students from City Hill Middle School and Cross Street and Hillside intermediate schools made the trip to the high school for Boys’ Day, an event organized by the Naugatuck High DECA chapter and Naugatuck Youth Services.
DECA is an organization designed to prepare students for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. Boys’ Day was started by former DECA students as a project to submit for the DECA State Career Development Conference. The school and youth services have continued the program on an annual basis.
The program brings younger students together with high school students — about 30 high school students acted as mentors this year — to help them connect with one another.
“The mentors are young men that they (the younger students) can then see themselves being one day,” said Chelsea Maza, DECA adviser and Naugatuck High marketing teacher.
The program is also designed to build leadership skills and confidence in all the students, while making them better citizens.
“My true goal is to know that it’s important to give back to the community which you’re apart of. You don’t want to just take up space,” Maza said. “You want to build those connections with other people because it’s meaningful.”
After an initial assembly in the auditorium to introduce themselves, the students broke up into small groups to take part in a series of activities, including a charades relay and a game in which groups competed to see who could wrap a mentor in the most toilet paper.
Throughout the activities, students were asked to recall other boys’ names.
“I think it enable us to get in touch with some of the kids that are going to be coming up through Naugatuck High School in a couple of years. We get to really impart our knowledge as high school upperclassmen. Hopefully, they leave here today with a more positive outlook on coming to Naugatuck High School,” said senior Spencer Maher, 17, who is the membership officer for the DECA chapter.
Maher led Boys’ Day with junior Jack Fortin, 16, who is the vice president of the school’s DECA chapter.
“It gets them more used to hanging out with the older kids. It gets them used to this atmosphere, enjoying themselves and feeling comfortable so when they come up to the high school level, they’re not scared of the upperclassmen,” Fortin said. “We have some sophomores, as well, so that these kids in eighth grade, when they come up, they’ll know them so they have a friendly face.”
Yachuet Feliciano, a seventh-grader at City Hill, said taking part in Boys’ Days meant a lot to him and other students.
“It actually helps with the self-esteem of other students, building their leadership skills,” he said. “It will help gather some skills that will assist them in the future once they go to college.”
After the activities, the boys enjoyed pizza before sharing their favorite part of the day.
“By the end of the day, they’re completely out of their shell. They’re more comfortable and they’re already building those connections and finding that mentor within someone in that community,” Maza said.
Maza said DECA will host a Girls’ Day in the spring for the first time because of the success of Boys’ Day.