Tutor Thomas Benson fighting idea of toxic masculinity


Photo by Makayla Gibson

Freshmen socially distance during the homecoming pep rally. Tutor Thomas Benson, founder and co-adviser, is hoping the group, Even Ground, will encourage guys to be “authentically themselves.”

“Toxic masculinity” has been a term used in society for generations. This negative stigma has affected how young males express themselves and interact with others. 

With these concerns in mind, a group focused on erasing this stereotype and providing support for young men here at Streetsboro High School was created. 

This organization, called Even Ground, is intended to benefit the school community as a whole by encouraging students to handle emotions maturely and treating others with respect and compassion. 

“As a young man, it can be very confusing navigating dating, friendships, social media, and a litany of other outside influences,” said tutor and club adviser Thomas Benson 

Benson actually founded this organization with a colleague while attending Kent State University. After successfully launching this program with KSU students,  Benson and SHS staff thought this program could be tailored for high school students and have a positive impact on SHS.

 “I intend to create a curriculum that is vetted by psychologists within this field to hopefully bring this program to other high schools and college campuses,” Benson said.

Even Ground helps males understand that they doesn’t have to look or act a certain way, and that everyone has his own unique identity, regardless of society’s expectations. 

“I hope that it will allow students to not only be able to check in with themselves more, but also provide them with the confidence to go out and be authentically themselves,” Benson said.

SHS’  group has been organized by Benson and guidance counselor Ira Campbell, health teacher Chris Scisciani and intervention specialist Brady Marlow. While this group has not yet met, these staff members have been working to create an environment in which SHS students can get together to discuss different issues. Whether it is friendships or romantic or family relationships, the goal is to create productive conversations that benefit students and their mental health. 

“Our ROX program for girls is fantastic and we have wanted to implement one for young men as well,” Campbell said.

The men in this group will be encouraged to openly come forward and speak about their emotions while creating genuine connections with the people around them.  

“I’m excited to start this with Mr. Benson and to have a positive and supportive environment created for the young men,” Campbell said. “In turn, the hope is that they will use what they learn and help each other to positively impact the school and those around them.” 

 Campbell and the other organizers are looking to include sophomore, junior and senior guys willing to discuss what being a young man means to them. They aim to find a group of 10-12 guys who have different backgrounds, interests, and perspectives on a variety of topics. 

Benson emphasized that Even Ground is not meant to disregard anyone’s struggles, but rather to encourage an environment of healthy and aware masculinity.