All too often, adults seem to think that youth should be followers, not leaders. That they should not challenge the status quo, if for no other reasons than that challenging the status quo is difficult and we adults feel that those efforts are not likely to be successful.
Thirteen year old McKenna Pope proved us wrong several years ago when she took on an issue, gender stereotype toys, which was important to her. Her younger brother was interested in cooking but the conventional cooking toy, the Easy-Bake Oven, was designed in “girly” colors and only featured girls in its advertisements. So, McKenna began a Change.org petition to request that toy giant Hasbro change the design of the oven and the way it is advertised. She raised over 45,000 signatures and Hasbro agreed to make the changes she suggested.
Hear what she has to say about her endeavor in the following TED talk and, adults, take note!
In high school, I have noticed more gender-based traditions than in elementary and middle school. Prom, football culture, and dating in high school all seem to have some pretty clear gender expectations: The guy has to ask the girl to prom, girls wear their boyfriend’s jerseys, and so on.
Why doesn’t this happen before middle school? While there surely is a biological change associated with puberty and development, I think a lot if it must be due to environment. Students may not realize that media consumption, role models, and exposure to new ideas can shape how they think. For example, a younger student might be more inclined to the views of his or her parents than an older student, because the younger student has not been exposed to new ideas yet.
Last fall, I decided to test this idea out with a survey of students in my school district to see how gender norms may affect us differently as we get older. I surveyed fourth, seventh, and tenth graders, for a total of ninety-five usable surveys. I asked questions that Continue reading →
by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE
I’ve been the Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE for a little over two years now and I’m finally starting to feel grounded in what this job is all about. That being said, I also feel that the field of youth advocacy (and advocacy in general) has been shifting during the course of my time at AWARE and that it continues to shift. Maybe this is the way it has always been – the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes. After all, in order to best meet the needs of the people we serve, we need to be constantly evolving. I got curious about how other Youth Advocates and/or Prevention Educators have experienced change, success, and challenge in their role, so I sent out a set of questions to my colleagues across the state. Responses came from people who have been in this work anywhere from one year to over a decade. Here is a picture of where youth advocacy in Vermont is headed, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Where do you see our work as Youth Advocates and/or Prevention Educators headed in the future?
Savannah Williams from Umbrella North in Newport explained, “Schools used to be really hesitant [about working with advocacy programs] before Act One was passed, but now Youth Advocates & Prevention Educators are seen more as allies than as strangers in certain communities.”
Bobbi Gagne from the Sexual Assault Crisis Team (SACT) in Barre describes the future of advocacy as “Learning from youth what they see as issues they face rather than us deciding what issues they see as important.”
What’s your favorite part about being a Youth Advocate and/or Prevention Educator?
Laura Young from Umbrella South in St. Johnsbury says, “My favorite part of being a Youth Advocate and Prevention Educator is all of the relationships that I have been able to build Continue reading →
Through the sponsorship of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship and Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Ana Cimino has spent the year hosting a youth empowerment group that focused on breaking the cycle of gender-based violence. The kids who participate in the group entitled it WINGS – We Inspire Girls to Succeed.
Working with the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, a Vermont agency that serves survivors of domestic violence and their children, Cimino has implemented a program that fosters an empowering and safe environment for kids to heal and grow. The program delivers its curriculum through various modalities, including art, dance, and writing. This program is not a support group, but rather an advocacy program empowering local youth to find their own space to heal, and to open the dialogue on healthy relationships and body image.
Cimino divided the year into two focus areas: defining and developing healthy Continue reading →
A world where every last girl is valued, safe and able to reach her full potential
As the Network moves forward to actualize our purpose to create a world free of oppression, we envision a world where every last girl is valued, safe and able to reach her full potential. The “last girl” is a helpful metaphor that we use to understand the complexity of oppression and focus our efforts. Where the last girl thrives, so too will her entire community because she is the most marginalized of them. As a child advocate who has worked in the violence against women’s movement for many years, I feel hopeful. I see that we now have an opportunity to talk about and engage young people in a way that we have not before – all because we have said that we want the last girl to thrive.
The Network is committed to examining how multiple forms of oppression compound to impact individuals and communities. This path leads us right to the last girl. She is oppressed because of her gender, further oppressed if she is a person of color or may be oppressed because of her ability or class. She is also oppressed because she is a child. Although her status as a child is a part of her identity that she will outgrow, it is connected to her other identities – and together they can create a deep rooted set of barriers.
Ultimately, we cannot make the world a better place for the last girl unless we look at all that oppresses her including the power that adults have over children – adultism. On one hand, it is the hardest form of oppression to confront because it is us who are the Continue reading →
My mom always tells me that I’m doing a good job at home and school. She would surprise me by placing small motivational notes in my lunchbox when I was in elementary school. They would always say how she loved me and to keep up the good work.
Her notes stopped once I got to middle school. I guess she feels they would embarrass me. She is so right! But, she has never stopped praising me for doing my work. My teachers do the same. They tell me how smart I am. I believe them…sometimes. Secretly, I think what they are saying is a joke. I hate to disappoint the adults in my life, so I play it safe. At home and school, I take on easy projects and assignments. Also, I do my best to look smart. What is this? Where is my confidence?
Educationalist, Carol Dweck, says the problem maybe with how the adults in my life are praising me. In Carol Dweck’s TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk, she explains her theory on Mindsets and how they are relevant to developing a child’s potential. Ms. Dweck explains how children view their intellect and abilities by what Mindset they hold. Her research concluded that two types of Mindsets exist in children, Fixed and Growth.
Children with Fixed Mindsets believe they have limited intelligence and abilities. They tend to be afraid to try new things and take risk. They are fearful of looking dumb and stupid in front of their peers. Looking smart is very high on their list of importance and they will go out their way to hold on to this image. They also believe setbacks and failures Continue reading →
By Megan Fariel, Senior at Hartford High School and Intern at WISE
As a high school senior, I have been thinking a lot about the transition from high school to college. It’s a huge transition, really. A switch from dependence to independence, from childhood to adulthood, and so on. However, one change not talked about very often is the transition to a new environment where sex is treated very differently.
In high school, there aren’t really forums to discuss sex and sexual violence other than health class. This gives the impression that sex is not something high schoolers should be doing, but suddenly, in college, conversations about sex are much more frequent, and people may feel like something is wrong if they haven’t had sex yet. That is a big and confusing transition.
This difference struck me as I took the Dartmouth class Sex, Gender, and Society this fall. It could be time-warp-ish at times: one hour I was in band and the bell rang to go to lunch and the next I was on the Dartmouth campus, talking about race and sex and how Continue reading →
by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE in Hardwick, VT
It’s been a whirlwind election cycle so far, and it can only get even more interesting from here on out. If you’ve been devoting any attention to the presidential race – even just on a peripheral level – you’ve probably heard something about how crucial youth voters will be in this year’s election. As a Youth Advocate, and as someone who was politically involved in my earlier years, I find this really exciting (and long overdue). We heard this same emphasis on the importance of youth voters in the last two election cycles, with then-Senator and now-President Obama running for office in 2008 and 2012, respectively. According to Matthew Segal, who is the co-founder of OurTime.org, between 22 and 23 million millennials voted in the 2012 general election, making up 19% of the American electorate. This was a 1% increase from the amount of youth voters in the 2008 election and there is no doubt the number of youth voters is still growing and also happens to be the most diverse group of any voters in the United States. You can check out Matthew Segal’s article here.
By the way, I had been wondering this for a while and just in case you had been wondering, too, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “millennial” as someone born in the 1980s or 1990s (or anyone who is, or will be, between the ages of 17 and 36 during this calendar year).
Check out this short PSA about Youth Voters in this election year from OurTime.org:
It’s easy to say we need to get more youth involved in politics, but many youth may be wondering where and how to voice their ideas, concerns, hopes, and dreams regarding Continue reading →
Safeline has been very, very fortunate to have had amazing young people supporting our work in many ways. Volunteer/service learning opportunities include doing research on various topics, distributing posters and brochures around our service area, tabling at events, hands on clerical or technical support, cleaning and maintaining our facility (Shout out to The Sharon Academy students for the recent work days!), answering the hotline, collecting petition signatures for town appropriation requests (Civics in action!), co-presenting with staff at school or community trainings, fundraising and more.
Lifelong activism can begin at a very young age. One such high school student was Jeanelle Achee. She was willing to the interviewed about her childhood experiences of being exposed to a batterer in a YATF newsletter issue focusing on resiliency. While still in high school, she completed Safeline’s advocacy training and covered hotline shifts. When she went to college, her pager went with her and she continued to cover hotline for us, eventually making the transition to covering the hotline at the local Network Program serving that area. As an adult, and during her tenure as Miss Vermont, she has continued doing extensive domestic and sexual violence outreach, education and direct service.
More and more schools encourage or require community service of their students, so please keep the youth volunteer opportunities at your local Network Program on mind. Volunteer opportunities may vary from program to program.