Mentoring With Girl Power
This past weekend, I was called to service as a volunteer mentor of inspirational “girl power” through The 24 Foundation. This non-profit organization uses creativity as a catalyst for healing the soul — right up my alley. They work in conjunction with the Sunburst Youth Challenge Academy (SYA) in Los Alamitos, California. SYA is a military style Community High School run by the CA National Guard in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education. At risk teens are provided with a 5-1/2 month long residential program that helps them finish high school while developing leadership, cooperation, and academic skills. The curriculum cultivates improved self esteem, pride, and confidence with events like the test discussion panel that I was fortunate enough to participate in, called Project Hope. The message to the girls this weekend was about healthy relationships, self esteem, and hope.
I arrived on base with expectations of inspiring a group of 55 young ladies by showing them that adversity and abuse can be defeated. After I shared bits and pieces of my own traumatic upbringing, I touched on areas of personal growth and success. For many years, I could not trust that men were worthy of my love or affection. Yet, I stood in front of these women and talked about how wonderful my loving and devoted husband is. I also grew up with very low self-esteem from being abused and neglected. Yet there I was, an inspirational author and illustrator, speaking openly in front of more than four dozen strangers about an uncomfortable and very private matter.
Every chance I had, I steered the conversation to the present moment, reminding the women that they are all survivors, in a place of well-being, surrounded by people that are devoted to their success and healing. Whether or not it is visible to them now, I explained that there is a blessing and a gift in every experience. Our past does not define us and it is always in our power to make the right choice to be better than our background. I spoke briefly about activities that I have learned over the years to help ease my own anxiety, like gratitude reminders and forgiveness exercises. While opening up about trauma and confronting pain is crucial for the healing process, my expertise lay in the realm of positive thinking in the present moment.
Everyone has “a story”. A defining moment in life that uniquely makes each of us a victim in one way or another. Some experience unhappiness in youth. While others could endure pain in old age. No matter what race or nationality, gender or age, throughout our lives, we encounter many instances of high stress. I think that difficult situations in life are unavoidable. I’m not sure that the idea is to avoid, but rather to triumph over painful moments by making positive choices that reflect our highest good. Rarely do we learn about people who have sidestepped hardship, but rather, our heros tell stories of overcoming severe mental or physical pain.
After the group panel ended, I was able to sit individually with two of the girls in the program. I learned of their own challenges and offered as much encouragement as I could about what great events lie ahead for them. I saw hope show through their eyes as I redirected their thoughts of the past towards the opportunities in the future. I helped them recognize the steps they are taking in the present moment to change the cycles of abuse and neglect that they previously believed to be “their story”. I’m looking forward to witnessing their dreams-come-true, as I continue to mentor, making the Girl Power come full circle, as their own progress comes back to inspire me.