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Standing Up for Men’s Health in Movember

Where else should conversations around men’s health be brought to the forefront than in an all-boys school? That’s exactly what St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) staff and students aimed to accomplish throughout the month of ‘Movember’.

A leading charity for men’s health, Movember, raises awareness and support around men’s mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer, encouraging those around the world to grow a ‘mo’ (moustache) or support a ‘mo’ by donating to the cause. What began in 2003 with two friends looking to bring back an old fashion trend — the moustache — has since grown into a global movement that has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects.

SMCS students grow a 'mo' for Movember
SMCS students participated in ‘Movember’, growing moustaches and raising money and awareness around men’s health.

Movember at SMCS

Here at SMCS, students and staff joined the movement, raising more than $4,000 through the school’s official ‘Mo Space’.

SMCS staff and students participating in Movember
SMCS students raised more than $4,000 for Movember.

“The Wellness Team was eager to bring Movember back to the SMCS community this year,” says Alessandra Lombardi, theology teacher and one of the club’s faculty moderators. “Being an all-male school, the team felt it was imperative to shed light on this important cause and raise money as a community, as its focus clearly connects to our mission statement as well as our core beliefs of the team. The focus on mental and physical health made it a perfect fit for our team to get creative and encourage student engagement through many different weekly events, videos, and games, all for a great cause.”

The Wellness Team led the campaign, encouraging the school community to take part by growing a ‘mo’ with competitions for ‘Best Mo’, ‘Best Growth’, and ‘Most Creative’. The club also held a ‘Move for Movember’ contest where students tracked how many kilometres they moved with a 60 km goal to represent the 60 men lost to suicide every hour around the world.

“It is necessary to have these types of initiatives at SMCS to help foster important conversations about the topics and challenges students face or could potentially face in the future,” adds Lombardi. “Movember not only highlights the need to develop positive physical and mental health in our daily lives, but it also allows students to discuss social and emotional topics that are often challenging to reflect on. We provided the students with both formal and informal learning sessions as well as promoted the initiative through engaging, creative, and fun activities planned throughout the month. This created a safe environment to discuss these important topics, but also gave us the platform to build positive school engagement and support.”

Discussions Focus on Men’s Health

In collaboration with Stephen Antolin ’05, core intermediate teacher, as well as the Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) committee, SMCS students also had the opportunity to learn more about issues affecting men’s health through another weekly initiative, ‘Monday Movember Morning Meets for Men’s Health with Muffins’.

“Some topics included unpacking stereotypes of ‘real men,’ which emotions they felt able to express in different contexts, male perceptions on offering and accepting help, and the unique challenges faced by young men in the 21st century,” says Antolin, who held the meetings in his classroom each Monday of the month with an average of 15 students attending each week.

Mr. Antolin speaking to students about men's health issues during Movember

“These are things I’ve often thought about, and it was nice to be able to discuss them openly with others,” says Wallace Dempsey, Grade 8, of the candid space of reflection that the meetings provided.

Outstanding Student Achievement

One inspiring SMCS student went above and beyond through his own Movember fundraiser which he has held each of the past five years.

Carter Owen-Speelziek, Grade 9, raised $5,200 this year, adding to his total of $14,580 raised since he started in 2018.

SMCS student, Carter Owen-Speelziek, Grade 9
Carter Owen-Speelziek, Grade 9 student

“My dad’s colleague got prostate cancer and my dad was close with him,” he says. “My parents started talking about Movember and mentioned it to me. They helped me make an account and it went from there. I began posting on Instagram and the donations started coming in.”

He adds that even if someone doesn’t donate to the cause, they can still learn more about it and become more open to talking about their mental and physical health as a result.

“Carter’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for the Movember Foundation five years in a row tells me he has been instilled with a sense of other and the ability to think beyond himself from a very young age,” says Dr. Robert Fantilli ’94, math teacher and Christian and Community Service Lead at SMCS. “Learning of Carter’s ‘Minor Mos’ campaign for men’s health and being a youth leader for the cause is inspirational. My hope is that Carter’s efforts will inspire his colleagues and those he encounters to share open conversations about men’s health issues and support each other. To see future leaders like Carter in the area of men’s health is a sign that we as a society are getting better, in that change is happening, awareness is increasing, and the message is spreading.”

Owen-Speelziek adds his reasoning for supporting this cause year after year: “It’s important to me because having good mental and physical health leads to a better, happier life, and by supporting and raising awareness for Movember I’m helping others build a new better life.”

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