Baking, Photographing, and Writing with Lots of Passion: A Recipe for Success

By Nisreen Galloway, Editorial Intern
Photo by Michelle Moore Photography

At 15 years old, Elissa Bernstein fell in love with baking. She appreciates good ingredients and decided to satisfy her sweet tooth by learning to bake an assortment of decadent desserts. She would come home from school and immediately preheat the oven before she even knew what she wanted to make.  At 16 she decided to start her own food blog, There, she posts pictures of her desserts, posts personal essays, and recipes. What started as a way for her to combine her love of writing with her passion for baking for herself eventually turned into a website with hundreds of readers.  She has been recognized by worldwide bloggers and magazines and in January 2012 was recognized in Food and Wine magazine as one of several American Culinary Icons. Now 20 years old, we spoke to Elissa about the success she achieved in her teens, and the continued presence of—in her life, and in the world.

Teen Voices (TV): What is

Elissa Bernstein (EB): is a food blog, and it’s more than that too. It’s like a living portfolio of my experiences. I started the blog when I was 16 and I just had this love for baking. Every time I baked, it added itself to whatever was going on with my family life or with my friends. I started taking photographs of what I baked and then 17andbaking was born. I wanted a place where I could keep track of everything that I baked and on top of that, sort of share stories and recipes and photos with readers. Now, reaches dozens of thousands of readers every month, maybe around 70,000 or 80,000.

TV: How often do you use it?

EB: When I first started, I posted about once a week. Now, my posts are more scattered because  I’m in college, so I don’t get to bake as often.  Whenever I bake, or whenever I feel inspired to write, I put up a new post.

TV: Would you consider yourself passionate about baking and when did you start?

I started teaching myself how to bake when I was 15 and by the time I was halfway through high school, it had sort of expanded into this obsession. I baked for fun and then after a while, word got out and I would bake for my friends’ birthdays. Then I started to get orders and I began sort of freelance baking for other people at special events, weddings, or parties.

TV:  How and what steps did you take to make your blog well known?

EB: I really don’t know how that happened. I actually got to a point where I had this sort of epiphany, and I realized that maybe nobody would read the blog, and I came to a peace with that. So I just kept going and then I guess one or two people stumbled upon the blog and then I didn’t try to market myself, it just happened.

TV: What’s your favorite recipe?

EB: I don’t know if I have a favorite recipe, but I really enjoy making ice cream. I got an ice cream maker and the creativity is sort of endless. You can take any flavor that you can think of and turn it into an ice cream. It’s not a guarantee that it will taste good but it’s pretty fun to try. I’ve made basil ice cream using fresh basil from our garden. I’ve made lavender ice cream. I’ve made taro ice cream. My mom is Taiwanese so flavors like taro are part of her childhood. It’s really hard for her to find those flavors in the U.S. but, what do you know—I can make taro ice cream!

TV: What has been your greatest challenge in terms of your blog and what’s been your most exhilarating success?

EB: It’s definitely been a challenge maintaining the blog in college. When I was in high school, I came home from school and even though I had a few hours’ worth of homework, basically the night was mine. I was free to bake in the afternoon and then write up a post over the weekend. Now that I’m in college, I also work two jobs and I have an internship that adds to 50 hours a week, so it’s hard to find time to bake. The most exhilarating thing…there have been a couple really incredible moments. I think one really great moment was when I got to be a speaker at BlogHerfood, the food conference in Atlanta in 2011 and talk about blogging in the next generation…Another really good moment was in January when I was featured in Food and Wine magazine, which was really a dream come true.

TV: Do you have any original recipes? Which ones are they and how were you inspired to create them?

EB: Although I have made original pies and things like that, I’m not a recipe developer—I’ll be the first to say that. I mostly bake for pleasure, which means a lot of the time I want a guaranteed good product.  I tend to use published recipes or I  adapt them, meaning I’ll change  two or three things: I’ll swap blackberries for raspberries, or I’ll decrease the sugar, or I’ll have walnuts so I’ll throw them in, things like that.

TV: You mentioned on your blog that you don’t want to go into the culinary arts but you have a passion for it.  Why is there this gap between what you like to do and what you want to do for work?

EB: My main love is writing. Sometimes, I joke that the baking is really a vehicle for the writing because I get to it with the picture of the cupcake…I know that there are people who use 17andbaking as a sort of cookbook, but I find that a lot of readers say that they are sticking around [my blog] for the writing. You can sort of see my life documented on the blog:  I started as a high school student and I talked about AP testing and how exhilarating it was to get my driving license. Then graduation, college, and two semesters ago, I studied abroad in Europe, so I blogged about my travels. You can really see me grow as a person on the blog too, alongside the food. And even though I still love to bake, I don’t think I have the chops to be a professional pastry chef or anything like that.  My true love is the writing. I love the writing that’s inspired by the food and the relationships that the food can foster. From the beginning, I’ve said that I want to be a writer and that’s still what I’m doing today.

TV: What would you say is the best advice you’ve ever received both in terms of baking and in terms of your life?

EB: For baking it would probably be: don’t get discouraged. When I first started baking, I was baking simple things that don’t actually require a lot of prep work, such as loaf cakes and brownies. Later on, my dad’s birthday was coming up and at that point, I felt pretty confident as a baker, so I picked an ambitious recipe: I wanted to make him a triple chocolate mousse cake. It involved not only a chocolate cake, but also two different kinds of chocolate mousse that had to be piped, layered, and chilled. I thought I could do it but I couldn’t, and I ended up with this big mess. I remember I sat down on the kitchen floor and cried because I was so frustrated. It was pretty discouraging, but it  brought me back down to earth and I realized that I still had a lot to learn. I ended up whipping up something else really quickly and he loved it. Then, a couple of years later, I went ahead and made that recipe again and it came out perfectly. There are still things today that are intimidating to me and things that I know I could make, I just need to practice. Nothing is out of reach, and that philosophy can be applied to anything.

TV: Who are your biggest role models and why?

EB: In terms of food, many bloggers inspire and challenge me and there are certain cookbooks that I always go back to: I love Dorie Greenspan and I love David Lebovitz for cakes and ice cream, respectively.  Many writers that I adore aren’t in the food industry but are fiction writers or travel writers– which is my current thing. I want to be a travel writer. You can find inspiration anywhere—like something as simple as a color can make me feel like baking. If I see really red strawberries, my mind immediately starts churning: well, what can I make with strawberries?  With writing it can be as simple as one sentence in a piece that makes you think, “Oh, that’s creative! I never would’ve thought of a metaphor like that,” and it gets the juices flowing.

TV: Many Teen Voices readers dream of being successful at what they’re passionate about. As you’ve been successful in your food blog, what are some encouraging words you have for those teens who are trying to follow their own dreams?

EB: It sounds crazy, but you truly do have your age going for you. You don’t think so—you think, “Oh, I’m young. I’m at such a disadvantage. I’m inexperienced, I don’t have connections; I’m in high school; I live at home.” But believe it or not, that’s going for you. Use that for as long as you can, because when you’re young and you’re motivated, people have a lot of respect for it and will take notice. I think a young perspective can be really fresh and if you are a younger person who really has something to say and something to teach and show, people will be impressed and  interested in what you have to say. No matter what you’re passionate about, if you pursue it and put yourself out there, you can always make it work!

To read Elissa’s blog, visit

The Omega Institute: Offering Insights In Growing Up Female and Furthering Women’s Leadership

By Naomi Chick, Former Mentor and Julia Hunter, Editorial Intern

As the car door opened, and the workers at Omega Institute greeted me and took my luggage, I looked around and was surrounded by green. After living in Boston, I was amazed at how much nature was surrounding me, and how many friendly people there were, asking me how I was. After checking in my luggage, and checking in, I took a small trip around the campus, and was yet again in awe of how peaceful everyone seemed to be. A beautiful garden, sanctuary, library, and café were all around me, and I didn’t know where to go first!
The first night, after a welcome orientation, about 20 teens, including myself, met with Rachel Simmons, world-renowned author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. We were all here for her workshop, “Say What You Mean, Be Who You Are.” No shoes allowed. No shoes? So comfortable! Sitting on the floor in a circle, cross-legged, talking openly, and learning how to communicate was refreshing, and something I was certainly open to.
The next morning, the workshop continued and we were able to go deeper to learn more about conflict, techniques of communicating correctly, and really getting across what you MEAN to say, instead of hiding true meaning in words. As I looked around the circle of girls, I realized how many of them were really looking to communicate correctly, and that they were beginning to realize how to determine the bad and good people in their lives. It was eye opening how vulnerable these girls were, and how willing they were to tell their stories.
After two more workshops, a few relaxing showers, scoops of ice cream, and walks through the garden, the weekend was over. My trip back to Boston was completely filled with me thinking about how to properly communicate not only with personal relationships, but with professional ones as well. I looked forward to completing small goals I had made for myself during the workshop. All the small things I was nervous to do, such as asking my boss to identify my positive and negative work qualities, I now realized I was able to ask correctly. I can honestly say that I left Omega with a new sense of myself, and a new ability to fully communicate with everyone. I’m grateful to Omega for such a rich learning opportunity.

I had never heard of the Omega Institute before I attended Rachel Simmons’ workshop, “Say What You Mean, Be Who You Are.” After doing some online research, I had the impression that Omega is a beautiful place frequented by those who do yoga regularly. It sounded interesting but not necessarily my ‘thing.’ Still, the workshop intrigued me, as did their new women’s leadership initiative, so I decided to go. And I’m so glad I did.
Although Omega did have a fair number of yoga practitioners, it was much more than I imagined. I met young women who are interested in the same things I am and who care about girls’ and women’s leadership. Rachel Simmons’ workshop was relaxed and captivating. As we did a variety of activities both introspective and interactive, I learned a lot about myself, as well as the other young women who participated. It was unique to be primarily in a workshop environment comprised almost entirely of young women my age who care about many of the same things I do, and then for other activities, to join with a larger community of men and women of different ages.
I was excited to learn about Omega’s new Women’s Leadership Center. From the vision statement, I’m excited to see what will come of the new initiative. The founders imagine a world where: “Women and girls are valued for their full human potential, live in safety, and are free to express themselves and contribute meaningfully in all spheres of life. Men and boys are free to express the full range of human qualities, including masculine and feminine qualities, and share equitably with women and girls in life’s responsibilities and joys at home, at work, and in the world. Our global society fosters nurturing and mutual relationships, healthy families and communities, and a peaceful, just, and sustainable world—for everybody.”
This vision for the future is one that many would say is impossible to achieve, but it is exactly what organizations like Teen Voices—and people like me—imagine and work for every day. Through its workshops and other initiatives such as the Global Change Scholars and the conference on Women and Power in September, the Omega Institute is both teaching and proving that our world doesn’t need to be one where girls and boys have to learn sexism and hate; instead, it can be one of opportunity and equality.
For more information about the Omega Institute, visit their website:
To learn more about the Omega’s Women Leadership Center and its upcoming events, visit:

The Bruises and Kisses Our Bodies Don’t Show: ACT Mannequin Art Project on Teen Dating Violence Prevention

By Kathleen Wong, 18, California

Art created by ACT Against Teen Dating Violence

Advocating Change Together (ACT) is a peer health advocacy program at Girls Incorporated of Alameda County, California. ACT has chosen to advocate for the cause of teen dating violence prevention because this is an issue that seriously impacts our communities and youth.

Teen dating violence is defined as a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, perpetrated by a partner to gain and maintain power and control over another. Statistics reveal that at least one in three high school and college-age young people experience violence in an intimate or dating relationship.

Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15–44. Most people stay in their violent relationships—in part because victims usually blame themselves for causing the violence.

The purpose of ACT is: (1) to allow high school girls to be involved in and advocate for issues affecting women/girls in the community; (2) to reduce the violence in our communities; (3) to encourage youth to have healthy relationships that build a sense of well-being, (4) to increase awareness of the health issues stemming from dating violence; (5) to raise community awareness of available resources; and (6) to create systemic change in San Leandro and Oakland that will benefit present and future generations.

The ACT program consists of groups in San Leandro and Oakland. Participants are first educated about how to be advocates and they learn about teen dating violence and healthy relationships. ACT creates system change by recommending policy, based on our own research analysis, which is then presented to policymakers such as the San Leandro City Council and school administrators. Every month, ACT participants are required to educate at least four peers to enlighten them about the problems of teen dating violence and the benefits of having healthy relationships. In addition, ACT does advocacy, runs workshops, conducts research, and outreaches through social media to local high schools to educate and prevent teen dating violence in the community. Topics addressed include violence, misconceptions of rape, the cycle of abuse, power, and control, being an ally, setting boundaries, and many others.

Recently ACT participants used mannequins as a canvas to illustrate the effects of healthy and unhealthy relationships on our emotional, physical, and sexual health.  A division on the body of the mannequin indicates the contrasting effects of violent and nonviolent relationships on the body. Half of each mannequin shows the positive benefits of a nonviolent and respectful relationship characterized by equality; there are images of hearts and happiness, along with words of endearment on this part of the collage. The unhealthy sides of the mannequins have extensive imagery of cuts, wounds, and bruises, in addition to multiple insults and offensive words. One mannequin has a fencing—like the fencing that surrounds many homes—on the side of healthy imagery of a relationship—to convey the message that everything may seem all peachy and lovey-dovey on the outside, but behind closed doors, that is where the violence occurs.

All of these mannequins illustrate that teen dating violence is not only physical and sexual, but also emotional and mental, and likely to have lasting effects on the victims’ lives.  For example, dating violence can foster low self-esteem, and make its victims accustomed to violent partners and to being treated as unequal and unworthy.

My experience in ACT has been life changing. ACT has helped me grow as a person.  I’ve learned how to network. I have become more confident and less shy. And I have improved my public speaking skills. Overall, I’m becoming smart, strong, and bold! Also, being a part of ACT has changed my perspective on how I look at my community. Because of ACT, I am more aware of what goes on in my community. Before, I never would’ve thought that I could actually make a difference in helping my community. But now, thanks to ACT, I am very determined and passionate about doing whatever I can to make positive changes for my community.

My hope for ACT is that the program will continue as long as possible because it sends such a powerful and positive message to young people that we can advocate for change by working together. I would also like to see ACT become more involved in the community, which has started happening. ACT girls have been attending community meetings to learn more about violence prevention and ways to improve public education on this topic.  I hope this trend will continue and we will get even more involved in the community. One day, I hope the community will know the value of what we do. I hope the community already knows ACT is working to make improvements and that we care!

You can learn more about ACT’s move against teen dating violence by following ACT on Girls, GirlsIncACT on Twitter, and by liking Advocating Change Together Girls Inc. of Alameda County on Facebook.

For more information on healthy dating relationships, see the Teen Voices article in the 2012 Teen Focus section of the online Boston Parents Paper, pages 6-8 at:

There are other organziations that can help too:

Love is Respect

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Circle of Six

We happen to know of two Jewish organizations that offer fantastic teen dating violence prevention programs and curriculum,  Shalom Bayit in Oakland, California has Love Shouldn’t Hurt  and Jewish Women International has a prevention program for girls called Strong Girls and one for boys called Good Guys.

Are the 2012 London Olympics Discriminating Against Men?

By Tasman Anderson, 17, Australia

ImageIt’s nice to see women playing such a big part in the 2012 London Olympics.

As Julia Hunter pointed out in her earlier post, “If You’re a Female Olympian, You Better Look Like One,” women were first introduced to the Olympic Games in 1900. In that first year, only 22 of the 997 athletes were female and these women were restricted to playing a limited number of sports that were deemed as “feminine–style sports.” Examples include croquet and golf. Since then, more and more females have become involved in athletics and this change is reflected in women’s participation at the Olympics this year.

Today at the Olympics, in the most popular sports such as diving and swimming, there are an equal number of men and women competitors, as well as an equal number of events for both sexes. In diving, for example, there are 68 men and 68 women competing for a medal in four different categories. Similarly, swimming has an equal number of men and women competing, with both sexes having opportunities to win medals in 16 different events.

I think the most amazing and powerful thing about the London Olympics is the fact that women are not only partaking in masculine-style sports such as BMX cycling, weightlifting , and wrestling, but planning to dominate them by taking home as many gold medals as they can.

With women competing in every sport, it may be fair to say that the Olympics is not only an amazing event, but also a supporter of women. With the introduction of women into traditionally “male” sports, you’d think that the same would apply to traditionally “female” sports; however, this is not the case. Is it possible that the Olympics may have actually marginalised men?

Even though there a quite a few events that have more male than female competitors such as boxing and shooting, there are no sports in the 2012 London Olympics that are strictly for men. However, there are currently two sports that not only have zero male competitors but even go so far as to classify themselves as a “female-only sport”– synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.

At one point in time, synchronized swimming was a male–dominated sport but when people started noticing that in general, women performed better and excelled more than men because of their physique, the men’s categories were eventually dropped. Similarly, rhythmic gymnastics was first designed as a form of exercise where women could express themselves through movement. When rhythmic gymnastics was adopted into the Olympics in 1984, the female stigma did not disappear and the sport became the second female–only sporting event.

Is it really fair to demand more rights for women when men are now being marginalised? I know a lot of you are probably thinking that it IS fair because of all the times we women have been treated as second best to men. However, purposefully choosing to exclude men from a sport or category not only reinforces gender differences, but also fights fire with fire.

I think it’s about time we make things 100% equal and allow men to participate in the two Olympic sports that have been dominated by women for so long.

So what do you ladies think? Should men have a chance to participate in synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics, or should we have sports that are strictly for women after so many years of male–dominated ones?  Leave a comment down below!

Getting the Facts on Single-Sex Spaces

By Liz Peters, Editorial Intern
Photo © Kara Delahunt, 2012

Isn’t it funny that one of the most popular places where girls and boys are definitely separate is the bathroom?? Truth is, it’s a space where girls really open up with each other. When girls are placed in single-sex spaces, whether in bathrooms, schools, or extra-curricular activities, they are more likely to explore themselves as individuals and gain comfort in their own skin; girls in single-sex spaces are more likely to take healthy risks and to try new things that they might not in a coed environment, such as taking up leadership roles and using tools new to them.  In sum, girls have different experiences in girls-only spaces than they would if boys were around.

Did you know that girls who are enrolled in single-sex schools are more likely than girls at coed schools to join a competitive sports team, including ones that society tends to associate with boys such as football and basketball. Not only is it healthy to keep an active lifestyle, but girls who join competitive sports are more apt to take up leadership roles and avoid teen pregnancy. The world we live in needs more female leaders! President, anyone?

Young women attending girls-only schools also open a variety of academic windows—for example, they are more likely to speak up in class and to feel competent in and to study subjects such as computer science and technology. The National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, an organization committed to the powerful potential of all-girls’ schools, reports that 36 percent of graduates from all-girls schools consider themselves strongly skilled in computers, compared to 26 percent of their peers at coed schools. In addition, 48 percent of these graduates consider themselves “great” at math, while only 37 percent of girls in coed schools say the same. Bringing new minds to the math and science industries helps everyone by allowing for development in ways never before considered. Girls can bring a fresh perspective to science and society, hopefully changing it for the better.

Teen Voices is a single-sex space as well—no boys allowed! High school girls from different Boston neighborhoods and backgrounds have the chance to work with college-age young women on articles for our online and print magazine, and to explore what it’s like to be a teen today. Girls are able to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe place, which often leads to in-depth discussions that they might not otherwise have at all. Overall, girls who spend time in environments such as that of Teen Voices tend to feel more comfortable to be themselves.

“It’s a great place to go where you know you’ll never be judged,” said Talia, a teen in the editorial mentoring program. “It’s easier to be open [without boys around] and everyone you talk to is going through the same stuff.”

Adriana and Wendy, also in the program, like the break from an environment influenced by boys. “You get enough of being around [boys] at school,” said Adriana. “There’s less drama [in an all-girls’ space], because [the drama] usually circulates around boys, and [here], we’re free to say what we want,” Wendy said.   

There are many famous women who are vocal about what they gained from attending a single-sex school:  Hilary Clinton, Gabby Giffords, and Madeleine Albright, to name a few. Journalist Katie Couric, politician and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader of the women’s movement, were educated at all-girls schools as well.

A single-sex space allows a girl to explore new possibilities, learn about herself and others in a less pressured environment, and apply those discoveries into action! Maybe a girl will learn she likes and excels in science, and end up curing cancer. A young woman might join a basketball team and go on to play in the Olympics. In the right space, anything is possible!

For more information on girls’ schools, visit the National Coalition for Girls’ Schools at or the National Association for Single Sex Public Education at:

Lace Up Your Sneakers and Get on the Path to Healthy Living

By Liz Peters, Editorial Intern

What do you usually do after school? Homework?  An extra-curricular activity? Maybe watch TV, play video games and log onto Facebook? You are not alone; many teens do the same.  But there are several effects of these behaviors, one being that when you’re doing these things, you’re not moving. So what? Well, without physical activity you begin to destroy your body, and if that doesn’t affect you now, it certainly will later.

Obesity puts you at risk of diabetes, heart attacks, depression and more. Although these conditions are more likely to affect obese people in their adulthood, children also face direct consequences of being obese.  For example, regardless of race and gender, obese children are more likely to be involved in bullying, which can result in anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

More than 23 million children and teens are obese or overweight in America today.  A recent study by Eric Finkelstein a health economist at Duke University, predicts that by 2030, more than 42 percent of the adult population will be obese.  Let’s work to lose that statistic!

Less physical activity, combined with increased portion sizes and a consequent increase in caloric intake, has resulted in spiked childhood obesity.  When you’re still growing and developing, it is normal for your body to gain a few pounds. What is not ‘normal’ is when the body takes in too many calories and produces too much fat, without any sort of compensation.  That’s right, you gotta eat less and exercise more to be healthy! Not only can exercise ward off sickness and keep you at a healthy weight, but it pumps good-mood hormones throughout your body, so you feel better about who you are and what you’re doing.

To combat the issue of portion sizes and increase focus on nutrition, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently introduced a new ‘food guidance system’ to encourage healthy eating.  Say goodbye to the food pyramid…here comes the plate. MyPlate is designed by ‘cutting’ a plate into fifths, each a different size for a particular food group: (1) fruits and (2) veggies (which should take up HALF of your plate!), (3) proteins, (4) dairy (got milk?), and (5) grains. The goal of using a circle rather than the pyramid is to simulate meal building; by relating food to what it’s eaten off of, it’s easier to map out a meal.

Women and girls around the country are joining the movement and working to make changes and get moving. Michelle Obama, a major leading lady, has taken a stand against the rise in obesity in America. In creating the “Let’s Move!” campaign, Michelle is working to solve the problem of childhood obesity so that the experience of growing up can be healthier, and youthful dreams can be pursued. Goals of the program include better access to healthier foods in schools, better access to healthy food for families (including families on food stamps), and helping youth become more physically active.

Here are some suggestions on how to advance a healthier lifestyle for yourself and for others:

  1. Snacks are a great place to incorporate healthy foods into your diet. Try bringing baked chips to school instead of fried. Celery sticks too boring? Pair them with low-fat ranch dressing or peanut butter.
  2. Walk where you can. If you’re able, leave for school a bit earlier than usual and make your way by foot. Your body will thank you for it and so will your brain! (There’s new research evidence that walking to school helps stimulate brain function). Be sure to keep your bones strong through routine exercise, milk drinking, and nut eating.
  3. Join the Youth Advisory Board, and inspire healthy living! The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization committed to ending childhood obesity by 2015 through collaboration with food, fitness, and technology industries, is looking for applicants to join their Advisory Board and take action to stop childhood obesity.  Participants within this youth-led group are required to implement healthy changes within their communities and schools through educating their peers and neighbors.  To see if you’re qualified to apply (between the ages of 8 and 17, live in the U.S., etc.), check out the Healthier Generation website.
  4. If you live in the Boston area, you can get involved in the work that Sociedad Latina is doing to improve the quality of life in Roxbury, including addressing obesity concerns through the “We are What We Eat” Campaign. Girls in the campaign are working to bring salad bars and healthy, cultural foods into their school cafeterias.
  5. Get your parents involved; they can help change things with and for you. The USDA has initiated a Fresh Food and Vegetable Program (FFVP) to replace the junk food in schools with healthy snacks, resulting in positive health effects. There are still several schools that are not participating in this program. Have your parents check out your school and if they are not complying, petition for the FFVP at so more cafeterias can transform what they’re serving, and who they’re serving it to.

So, get up, get out, and get moving girls! Start by checking out the Women’s Sports Foundation’s GoGirlGo! curriculum, where you can learn how to get and stay active and healthy.

For information on issues related to obesity and healthy eating, see our Food Buzz article in the Spring/Summer issue of our print magazine entitled “The Secret Life of Lunch.” And check out our online interview with the activists at Sociedad Latina, with their campaign to bring healthier lunch choices to Boston teens in school.

Mentoring at Teen Voices Changed My Life

By Sarah Binning
Originally published on Over My Shoulder Foundation’s blog. Additions made 7-23-12

The spring of 2009, I found myself in a whirlwind. My junior year of college was coming to a close, and the illusive senior year was now just months away. People either batted their sympathetically eyes at me while wishing me luck during my final year, or they annoyingly asked, “So what are you going to do with your life?” Senior year meant it was time to start thinking of the future.

I stared at myself in the mirror as I asked, “What job would truly make you happy?” The answer came easily: writing, editing, or working for a magazine. The next questions were a little more challenging: “How are you going to reach this goal? Where do you need to be?”

Could I, country-bumpkin Sarah, leave the safe arms of Ohio? Did I have what it takes to survive life in the city? Live in a place where the sounds of crickets’ chirping was replaced by cars and trains?

That’s when I found Teen Voices, an organization that allowed me to not only to write and edit, but to combine my love for writing with my feminist voice. This magazine is creating social change through media. And not just with any media: girl-generated media. Suddenly, the idea of moving to a city wasn’t quite so scary. I packed up my bags, loaded the car, and headed to Boston. But what I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t return home the same person.

Teen Voices changed my life. More specifically, my mentees changed my life. While I truly loved every aspect of my internship, my favorite part was mentoring two fabulous teens, Anna-Cat and Malisa, through the process of writing a magazine feature article. Working with young women who have so much creativity, passion, and love to offer the world was truly inspiring.

Mentoring is more than just investing time in someone else’s life. Mentoring is more than just shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Mentoring is a learning opportunity that allows you to grow in ways you never dreamed possible. I mentor because the teen editors at Teen Voices have so much to teach me. And yeah, I’m sure that I’ve taught them some things along the way (or at least I hope I did!), but these girls challenged me to learn new things.

In just six short weeks, here are some things my mentees taught me:

  1. How to walk from The Commons to Faneuil Hall without following the Freedom Trail. When I first moved here, I had no idea how to get anywhere. The Freedom Trail and T stations were the only ways I knew how to find places. If it wasn’t off one of those lines, forget it. Not happening. The girls challenged me to be more adventurous and explore Boston.
  2. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I remember the time I treated my mentees to ice cream. Balancing my cone while trying to find my wallet, plus the summer heat, was just more than I could handle. My ice cream fell onto my foot and down inside my flats. I was so embarrassed! But as the girls tried to help me clean the stickiness off my foot, all we could do was laugh.
  3. The simple things are what matter most. Say, “Thank you.” Give credit wherever credit is due. Let those you care about know how you feel. Take 15 minutes to ask how their day is going. It’s important to listen and recognize your mentee outside of the realm of work/business. This advice may seem like a no-brainer. But sometimes people just get too busy, or too caught up in their own world, or the project at hand, to remember the simple things.
  4. There’s a difference between having a job you like and a job you love. I loved my time here at Teen Voices so much that I came back as an AmeriCorps VISTA to serve at Teen Voices. And since then, I’ve been hired on as staff. Seriously, I love my job! I want to go to work almost each and every day. I know the articles the teen editors are writing are making an impact on people’s lives. I know that their work, and inherently my work, is worthwhile!

To learn more about Teen Voices, please visit

But Teen Voices needs your help. Because of a recent decrease in funding, we’re at a crisis. We must raise $300,000 by August 1. Yes, it’s that bad.

Here’s how you can help:

Make a donation. $5, $50, or $5000—every donation brings us closer. You can send a safe and secure contribution through this PayPal link.

Or mail a check to:

Teen Voices
80 Summer St, Suite 400
Boston MA 02110

We need your donations by August 1!

Copy and Paste our call to action on your own blog. Help us spread the word about our program, publication, and fundraising efforts.