Category Archives: teen editors

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.

Celebrating Teen Voices’ Fall Session

By Sarah Binning

Another session has come and gone. Time flies when you’re writing articles and creating social change through media! After three months of hard work, our teen editors handed their completed articles to Jessica, our fantastic editor—a moment worthy of celebrating and special recognition. At last night’s awards ceremony, we celebrated the accomplishments of our Fall 2010 teen editors and mentors!

The teens wrote special tribute paragraphs to their mentors, expressing their thanks and reminiscing on memories made this session. Mentors also read paragraphs to their girls, reflecting on the accomplishments of their mentees.

“One thing that I learned from you is while you are doing an interview be friendly, calm, and professional,” Chelsey (right), reads her paragraph to mentor Julia (left) with group member Marshea.

Mentor Megan (right) reads to Cynthia (left): “I want you to remember that the world needs you, that thoughtful, caring, loving inner you. I am privileged to have gotten under your skin to know the real you, and I hope you share that privilege with more and more people who will be lucky to know you as I have been.”

Megan tells mentee De’Shannah (middle), “One day we were having one of our chats … and I’ll never forget what you said: “day by day.” It’s a thought that’s stuck with me since then, inspiring me to keep going.”

“You and Gilesa worked very hard and I loved seeing a friendship form between the two of you that may never happened if it hadn’t been for Teen Voices. I’ll miss our adventures together and finding out fun facts about the two of you while playing the fruit snack game,” mentor Kathleen reads to Lakhala (left) and Gilesa.

But that’s not all. Saun Green, program director, and our six wonderful peer leaders have been carefully observing the teens this session. They created superlatives for each participant that best expressed the girls’ personalities and contributions to Teen Voices. Above, Saun presents superlatives to the Dear D section.

We laughed. We cried. We left with warm hearts and a greater love for Teen Voices!

Thanks again to our wonderful mentors! Front row:  Michelle, Rachel, Karen, and Julia. Back row: Jessica (Editor), Ashley A., Kathleen, Megan, Ashley M., Mary and Lydia. Missing from photo: Katie (feel better, Katie!).

The Case for Unaltered Celebrity Photos

By Sarah Binning
As unaltered photographs of Jennifer Aniston hit the Internet, airbrushing has again made headlines. The original photo shows Aniston’s freckled, lined face, while the magazine cover of Australia Madison indicates perfect skin sans freckles and wrinkles.
Most of the viewing public knows media images are edited. A recent study by the Good Surgeon Guide, indicates that nearly 90 percent of teen girls are aware celebrity images are edited. This leads us to an important question: If people know that these photos are unrealistic, why do is there so much interest in Photoshopped images?
Do you think celebrities would be less famous if media portrayed the “unedited” versions of them? The Merrriam-Webster definition of “celebrity” is the “state of being celebrated.”So what are we actually celebrating? Their talents? Accomplishments? Looks? It’s easy to focus on “celebrating” so much that we forget they are human. We all age, get wrinkles, and sport the occasional dreaded pimple!
Maybe if we all saw more unedited photos of these celebs, we could recognize them as “normal” and create a newer, more positive standard of beauty. And isn’t it possible that their flaws would make them more likable to us, not less?
Teens may understand that media images are unrealistic, but that doesn’t mean the images don’t affect their self-esteem. This summer, Teen Voices’ teen editors spent an entire week discussing and analyzing media representations of women. The teen editors also uncovered the types of females who are represented in film and TV, and, more importantly, which types are left out. Our girls discussed how easy it is to feel your self-esteem lowered, and to feel like a failure when you can’t reach impossible beauty. These standards might be unrealistic, but they can still deeply impact the way teens view themselves.
We’re always happy to see groups taking steps toward combating false representations of women., a top plus-sized retailer, will showcase only plus-sized models during their show at New York Fashion Week. The retailer is taking a lot of heat for participating in Fashion Week – but we’re looking forward to seeing these curvy women in the show!

What We Learned at Teen Voices This Week

Being a teen editor at Teen Voices brings with it a lot of experiences, togetherness, laughter, and learning. Our teen editors compiled a list of the things they have recently learned about relationships, hip hop, life, and each other. See if any of them sound familiar, and you may just learn something new!

• People almost always want to be your friend and it’s almost always worth the effort to be friends with them.
• Giant companies own many radio stations and control what we listen to.
• Looks don’t always reveal what’s going on inside. Actually, it doesn’t reveal much at all.
• You don’t need to specifically need to have a conversation with someone to feel close to them. Just sharing experiences shows trust and trust can make you feel close.
• When guys take care of their children (like they should in the first place) it shouldn’t be especially looked upon or praised because that’s what is expected.
• Media has a major impact on our lives when it shouldn’t.
• All the girls here have a lot in common as far as what they have been through in life.
• The power of a group is the most healing, beneficial and cleansing. There are many things that are not achievable individually that are possible to overcome in a group.
• The moment you give in to being yourself and overcome your shyness in a new environment there is a feeling of liberation and extreme happiness.
• I don’t always think about the music I listen to.
• The girls who seem the meanest are often the ones who have been through the most in life.
• Women don’t have an independent role in the hip hop world as much as I thought, especially after seeing how Beyonce dances around Jay-Z.
• You have to pay attention to the things you say, because you never know how other people are going to take it.
• A positive community can bring the best out of people.
• Making a difference in the world starts with you.


Saun Green Receives Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts Award

Today, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women honored 100 inspiring women at the Seventh Annual Unsung Heroines of Massachusetts Celebration. Teen Voices’ program director Saun Green was one of the women who were honored.

The event, held at the Massachusetts State House, brought together women who are making a difference, and who show determination, courage, and vision in changing their communities.

We are so thankful to have Saun in the Teen Voices community, and appreciate her for always being an inspiring, passionate, and supportive role model for the teen girls in our program.

Program Director Saun Green with First Lady of the City of Boston Angela Menino and Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Commission Marie Turley

Saun’s work with young women makes a huge difference in their lives. Here’s what some of Teen Voices’ teen editors have to say about her:

“One thing we love about you is how real and honest you are. We can come and talk to you about anything, even if it’s too much for you to take in sometimes. You listen to us and guide us as young women, telling us to come together not just as friends, but as sisters.” –  SaChe

I came to Teen Voices when I was 16 with a lot of hurt and pain and shyness. I didn’t think much of myself. But because of your program and the way you run it, I have been able to build my self esteem as well as open up to others without being afraid to tell my story.” – Malisa

Teen Voices has really impacted me in a good way. It is my home away from home.” – Lynn

I would say how Teen Voices changed me faster than I ever thought. Teen Voices made me feel safe, loved and they made me feel as if I wasn’t alone in the world.” – Lina

I feel that I can hold my head higher and nothing or no one can tear me down.  I feel that I can now walk with the confidence I never had. “ – Tatiana

Teen Voices changed my life.  It increased my self-esteem, helped me escape problems at home and with friends while preparing me for the working world. “ – Nathalie

Congratulations on your well-deserved award, Saun!

Putting the ‘Fun’ in Funds!

As we ride out the economic crisis, everyone is responding in different ways. At Teen Voices, we directly impact the way girls live their lives as adults, so we decided to address the issue through teaching teens about responsible handling of personal finances. To do this, we teamed up with the Financial Services Forum at UMass Boston’s Department of Accounting and Finance. Teen Voices peer leader Anna-Cat Brigida, 17, attended the workshop and shares her thoughts on the event.

On April 21 and 22, Teen Voices’ teen editors attended a financial workshop at UMass Boston. I know, you’re probably thinking finances are so boring! But that is where you are wrong! The financial literacy workshop was a blast, and it was very informative.  The presenters gave us a ton of useful information about how to spend our money wisely and plan for the future.

The staff at UMass – including Kristen Callahan, Nicole LaPointe, and Annette Florczak — really managed to make it fun for us to learn about money. We played a board game that allowed us to see what expenses and obstacles we will have to deal with as adults. The teen editors became very competitive over the game, which made things more interesting. We also learned how to make a budget and keep a log, to keep tracking of how we are spending our money…this helps us see where we might be wasting resources. We talked about how we love spending our money, which was a fun part of the conversation, and something all the workshop participants  all had in common.

On Day 2 of the finance workshop, we talked primarily about credit cards and how to manage them. We learned how to use credit cards responsibly – which means only spending what we can pay back.  The presenters shared their own personal stories of financial mistakes they had made in the past, and showed us that it’s easy to accumulate thousands of dollars of debt in a short amount of time. Hearing that they (now financial experts!) had made mistakes with credit cards in the past showed us just how easy it is to abuse credit. Although it is important not to go over the limit, we also learned that it is good to have a credit card in order to establish some type of credit, because no credit is just as bad as bad credit.  We also learned the difference between debit cards versus credit cards: when you pay with a debit card, the money comes straight from your account, and paying with a credit card is like borrowing money.

The staff also taught us how to file taxes when we get a job.  We learned about certain forms, such as the W-2, W-4, and 1040EZ, which everyone all required to fill out when you have a job. While filling out these forms, we learned what information we need to include, and what tax returns actually are. Knowing how to fill out the tax returns was a very important part of the Workshop, especially because many of us didn’t even know about it beforehand. Now we won’t stress out about our taxes like so many people do. This experience was super helpful. Who knew that learning about money can be fun?!

Media and Expression: An Approach for Helping Girls Process Trauma

Teen Voices Editor and Publisher Jessica Moore wrote an article for Youth Media Reporter about using media to help teen girls process traumatic events in their lives.

When the earthquake struck Haiti in January, many of our teen editors received devastating news about family members that had not survived the disaster. Teen Voices reached out and provided a space for our Haitian teens to recount their memories and emotions in the aftermath of the earthquake. Later, some of those teens told their stories on radio shows in the Boston area.

In her article, Jessica discusses the ways that providing opportunities for teens to share privately and publicly can help them to process difficult emotions surrounding traumatic situations.