YARMOUTH — An organization working to stop gender-based violence has received a federal grant of nearly $350,000 to continue its efforts in the greater Portland area.

Nonprofit Maine Boys to Men was awarded the grant by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women on Sept. 8.

Matt Theodores, the organization’s executive director, said it will use the three-year grant to extend the impact of the Reducing Sexism and Violence Program, in collaboration with Family Crisis Services and Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine.

RSVP works with boys and girls in high schools on issues of sexism and sexist attitudes that can lead to violence.

“We  bring (high school students) together in series of fairly intensive workshops,” Theodores said, adding the organization helps the students challenge and confront outdated cultural representations.

The grant comes at a great time, Theodores said, because it will continue to build on the momentum of the program. He said this year RSVP will reach more students than in its previous nine years combined.

Boys to Men will use the grant to continue to partner with the Preble Street Teen Center to bring RSVP to homeless boys and young men ages 13 to 24.

Additionally, the organization will use funds to expand the delivery of RSVP at South Portland High School, and engage the broader community through direct programming, public education and organizing activities.

The effort will begin with a screening of the film “The Mask You Live in” on Oct. 22 at the SPHS auditorium. The documentary focuses on issues boys face growing up and the ways communities can be engaged in the healthy development of boys.

“We’ve always come at our work from perspective we believe every boy has ability to become nonviolent men, but we see cultural pressures that can push them the wrong direction,” Theodores said.

Boys to Men has existed since 1998. Theodores said for its first eight years, RSVP was a retreat-style program, where students were brought for four days. As that became too difficult to do financially and logistically, the organization broke the curriculum down into modular workshops.

Maine Boys to Men received a similar grant in the late 2000s. That grant, which was also for three years, was for roughly $300,000.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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