Boys To Men - Man to Men - Woman to Women - Girls to Women

GenDerations Programs

Stefan Hermann
Stefan Hermann

The great orator and reformer, Frederick Douglas once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken people.” The success of GenDerations programs is built on the attitude of its adult mentors, who treat teens as equals, and who see them at an eye-to-eye level. Mentors are trained facilitators, who accompany the young people on their journey to adulthood, assisting with important life issues. ”Top-Down” instruction and advice-giving are avoided. Instead, fostering emotional maturity and personal development are the priorities. At GenDerations, relationships are built on curiosity, integrity and emotional authenticity, a deep relationship with nature, and the desire for community.

The Need for a New Approach

Because our society is so fast-paced and consumption-oriented, with growing numbers of single-parent and patchwork families, teens struggle to develop good values, a strong sense of identity and of having a valued place in society. As a result, many teens – especially boys – cause problems, for themselves and others. Amongst girls such problems like eating disorders and Internet bullying are most prominent.

GenDerations addresses these issues in mixed gender or gender specific mentoring circles, which are run with much success in schools, teen centers or in open enrollment scenarios. We offer a syllabus fully integrative to a school curriculum and flexible enough to be adaptive to any local culture. 

Stefan Hermann founded GenDerations Mentoring Intl. He first introduced BoysToMen (BTM) Mentoring in Europe in 2009, based on his apprenticeship with BTM founders Joe Sigurdson and Craig McClain from San Diego and his experience of founding and successfully operating a BTM Center in Santa Barbara (BoysToMen Central Calif. Coast) for numerous years. Stefan is a former business coach and published author of a book on future design. He is a renowned expert on men’s work, who in the last 16 years accompanied more than 3000 boys and men in the USA, Europe and South Africa on journeys into manhood. For his work, he was honored in 2006 with the Ron Hering “Mission of Service” award. He is a guest docent at the University for Social Pedagogy in Lausanne, Switzerland and certified at the highest level of the largest Men's Work organisation in the world.

Before his social engagement he was a top 100 world-ranked pro tennis player with wins over numerous Top 30 players including the young Boris Becker. As a business coach he worked for Fortune 500 companies like Siemens AG, Höchst AG, oder Eli Lilly in den USA, Scandinavia, South East Asia and Europe. In 1998 he held the Guiness Book record for the longest rally in tennis history at 6:45 hours with 12,464 shots without committing an error. Stefan is a husband of 20+ years to spiritual teacher Siddhi. They are parents to 6 adult children and grandparents to Sidney (14) and Lina (4). Sidney himself is very engaged with BoysToMen in Hamburg, Germany.

The expansion of BoysToMen to GenDerations Mentoring in July 2012, including girls and women, has been the result of a natural process of recognition of predominant societal challenges. These same challenges prompted the Office of Equality and Diversity of Canton Zurich to offer financial and program development support for GenDerations in the amount of 200,000 Swiss franks ($220,000 US). Stefan was instrumental in raising well over US$ 500.000 for the European operation.

Unique Program Elements

There exist today many mentoring organizations that focus their work on teenagers. However, none of these organizations combine the intensity of a single weekend or a week-long experience with long-term mentoring that is based on gender-specific needs. GenDerations focuses on the needs of teenagers – girls and boys 12-17 years of age (grades 8, 9 and 10). There is also a weekend training for 7-12 year old girls and boys. The main focus of GenDerations is put on weekly or bi-weekly circles of mentors supporting kids wherever they already are: at schools, teen centers, orphanages, foster homes, in correctional facilities or rehab centers. Through this cost-effective, volunteer mentoring, kids are supported, individually or while at school, for up to two years. We work with youth-at-risk; the question is: which youth isn't at risk?

The backbone of the program is an adventure weekend, or project week (a week-long field trip) followed by the mentoring process. GenDerations nurtures perspectives above and beyond everyday life and school protocols. Perspectives that encourage lifelong integration into society and a positive transition into adulthood.

Educational Concepts Underlying GenDerations Programs

At the heart of the programs for teenagers is either a project week (or week-long field trip) or an adventure weekend. These experiences are structured along the lines of traditional rites-of-passage or initiations – adapted for modern times. Symbolism and metaphor are used extensively. Mythodrama, role play and nature experiences encourage teens to question their socio-cultural behavior patterns. The adult mentors serve as role models, without having to be perfect. Being a role model with GenDerations means being authentic. Honesty on the part of the mentor will be honored proportionally by the trust teens give in return.

GenDerations mentoring has no set expectations for the direction in which a teen should develop, except for integration of sound, general values and personal qualities such as responsibility, honesty, integrity and reliability. Deeper work is facilitated in co-ed groups as well as in gender-specific sessions.

Program Financing

BoysToMen Mentoring is financed through private and public funding sources, donations and volunteer engagement. In the US the cost of the programs, on average, amounts to under US$ 1000 per youth/per year. This is approximately the amount which is spent on one young person PER DAY in a youth detention or correctional facility.

BoysToMen has approximately 30 centers in the USA, Canada, England and South Africa. As BoysToMen, and now after the expansion to GenDerations Mentoring, the program has been supported by funders such as Cantonal Health and Social Services (GEF) in Bern, by the City of Bern, the guilds of the Bern citizen community, the Swiss Health Promotion Foundation, the Swiss Commission on Migration, Lottery Fund of the Canton Zurich, the Office for Equality and Diversity of the Canton Zurich, the Mayor’s Office of the City of Ulm, the Ambassador of the USA in Switzerland, the Regional Council Schwabing in Munich, as well as various individuals and economic institutions.