Category Archives: teen program

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.

Run The World: Kathleen Hassan On Women’s Power Source

By Jillian Martin, Editorial Intern

Last month, Teen Voices participated in NEDAwareness week, held by the National Eating Disorder Association. At the same time, the Mother Caroline Academy and Education Center mentor program held a self-esteem-building event featuring “Confidence Coach” Kathleen Hassan. The school’s gymnasium was packed with middle-school students, their parents, and their mentors and Beyonce’s girl power single “Run The World (Girls),” which kicked off the event.

Hassan teaches the girls where their power comes from: positive thoughts.

“There are girls in this room who feel like they’re not good enough,” Hassan began. “Some are starving themselves. Some would do anything to fit in.”

At this event, Hassan inspired the audience, teaching them where their power comes from—not from putting others down to build yourself up, and not from the media, which sexualizes women and portrays an unattainable image of perfection.

According to Hassan, 85 percent of women and girls have felt worse about themselves after looking at a fashion magazine and 86 percent of self-talk (thoughts) is negative. This happens because, to their detriment, many women and girls today tend to seek their worthiness and confidence from outside forces.

As a healthier model, Hassan teaches girls to get their power from within, instead of from the media, by choosing love over fear. She said, “Thoughts become things… wanted or not.” We emit energy with our thoughts; if they are negative, we will attract negative people and situations, and the energies will feed off each other, becoming more and more negative. On the flip side, if we emit positive and powerful energies, we attract powerful and positive people.

Negative images and energies infiltrate the thoughts of all young girls, but Hassan said we all have an emotional guide system that gives us the tools to “recalculate” those thoughts to something positive.

Hassan taught the audience two strategies to recalculate and achieve. Give them a try so that you, too, can feel confident and worthy and choose love over fear.

Soerny Cruz, a graduate from the program, "achieves" in the final part of the Body Prayer.

The first, Hassan calls a “body prayer.” She called four girls with big dreams to the stage to help out. The first girl was “dream,” and she laid her head in her hands. The next was “believe,” and she held her hands over her heart. The third was “receive,” and she held her hands out open to take in the positive energies. The final girl was “achieve,” and she flexed her arms, showing strength. Within minutes, Hassan had the entire auditorium dreaming, believing, receiving, and achieving.

The second strategy is the use of affirmations. Hassan suggested that everyone pick one affirmation from the list that she showed (these short sayings were accompanied by inspiring photos and the melodic voice of Bruno Mars singing “You’re amazing, just the way you are”) and repeat it every day for a month, as it takes a month to create a new habit. Here are just a few of the affirmations:

  • I choose LOVE over FEAR
  • I am fit, strong, and healthy
  • Peace begins with me
  • Happiness is a choice
  • I am strong

Readmore about NEDAwareness week and Teen Voices’ Artist of the Month Contest and vote on the March art—March’s theme was “Beauty is More than Skin Deep.” Learnmore about Mother Caroline’s adult education, shining star, and mentoring programs, including events and how to get involved.

Scholarships, Adventures, and Coastal Studies

Guest post by Coastal Studies for Girls

Photos courtesy of Coastal Studies for Girls

Summer is winding down and there’s a nip in the air at dawn.  For most of us, the coming of fall means the heading back to school and restarting familiar routines.  Wake up, grab your backpack, go to school, take a test, write an essay, stare at the clock, and wait for the final bell. Repeat Monday through Friday.

Fall approaching may feel like the end of adventure after a summer of fun and freedom.  Or maybe you’ve worked really hard all summer and you are wishing you’d had more time for fun.  But what if you could do something really amazing and unusual for school this year?

Do you have a love for learning and discovery, an adventurous spirit, and a desire to challenge yourself?  If so, you may be a Coastal Studies girl.

Coastal Studies for Girls (CSG) is the country’s first residential science and leadership semester school for 10th grade girls.  Located in Freeport, Maine, students from public, independent and home-schooled backgrounds from all over the U.S. spend a semester at this unique residential program.  CSG features a marine science and leadership curriculum, while also offering classes in the core subjects of English, math, history and foreign language.

CSG has an unexpected opening for their Fall 2011 semester starting August 28 through December 17, 2011.  A full scholarship is available for this life-changing opportunity. Whether exploring the inlets and islands in kayaks, studying the rich natural history of Maine, or researching tide pools, CSG is for the adventure seeking and intellectually curious.

Still not sure if CSG is for you? Here’s what one recent student said about her experience, “Being part of Coastal Studies for Girls allowed me to reflect on who I am, what I value, and what direction I want to take in life. I think in new ways and push my comfort zone to its very limit knowing that it is even ok to make mistakes.  I’ve learned about my own self-reliance and confidence, and it has given me a better sense of community. Living with other girls has shown me the value of respect, leadership, kind speech and other values that are necessary for living together.”

Any 10th grade girl interested in applying must contact Contact Tara Treichel, education director, at 207-865-9700 or as soon as possible. You could be off on this exciting adventure in just 2 weeks!!  For more application information: click here!

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.


Civil Rights and the Young People’s Project: One Girl’s Trip to the SNNC 50th Anniversary Conference

By Deamonte Tibbs-Petty,
The Young People’s Project

The Young People’s Project is a non-profit group dedicated to raising math literacy and working for social change. Their mission is to change the quality of mathematics education for children. As part of that group, I traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina, in April for the SNNC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) 50th Anniversary Conference. More than 1,100 people attended the conference, which was both a celebration and a documentation of those who fought for social change in 1960.

I learned about so many inspiring people in the civil rights movement, and saw what they have achieved by fighting against racism and fighting for equality. One powerful woman I learned about was Ella Baker, an activist and civil rights organizer who was a strong leader and speaker for her community. To me, she is the definition of a role model because she stood up to oppression and fought for equal rights for the black community. Baker once said, “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” This quote stuck with me because it reminds me that we all have enough willpower to lead ourselves.

At first I didn’t understand what SNCC had to do with YPP, until our College Math Literacy Workers explained to us that Bob Moses was in the civil rights movement and the actions he took to get his daughter to learn math are the reason we now have the Algebra Project and YPP. We were very lucky to be able to hear the SNCC stories. I appreciate what Bob Moses and SNCC have done because if it wasn’t for them taking brutal beatings and disrespect to come together and march for what’s right, my high school wouldn’t have the diversity and love it has today. No one is being judged or discriminated against because of the color of their skin. We are all treated like human beings, and to me that is love.

Besides going to workshops at Shaw University to listen to the activists, we also met other YPP coordinators and staff from places like Jackson, Mississippi and Chicago. Meeting students from all the YPP sites was a good experience for me because I got to see that we all want to make a change in our communities.

At one workshop, we did an activity called “Neighbor Circle.” We formed groups and got to know each other like neighbors. We had to pick a major problem that happens in our community and talk about how our group would work together to fix it. Many of us found we share the same ideas when it comes to wanting school to provide extra help, clubs, and money for those who need it. We felt that the way math is being taught makes it difficult for kids to learn, whether because of bad supplies or the scarce amount of teachers.

I feel like I have grown from this trip. I now understand that if you want to make changes for the better, you have to stand up for your beliefs. My ancestors’ fight against struggles and abuse make the world a better place today. I learned that you can make a change without using violence. The civil rights leaders were the role models and leaders of that time and now they are passing down knowledge so we can be role models for kids in the generations to come. Everyone in YPP has high hopes and dreams that students will become powerful adults who will make a difference.

View photos from the SNCC 50th Anniversary Conference.