Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Making Powerful Choices: Community Partners, Personal Expression & Power & Sexual Health

Our Powerful Choices Program has been filled with powerful growth and sisterhood as we welcomed the new year and amazing community partners to share space with us! Contributions and engagement from community partners provides us a space for girls to experience multiple perspectives, gain new life skills, and find community and ideas for future careers in our partnerships with awesome sister organizations. Youth Speaks Seattle, 7 Star Women’s Kung Fu, and Planned Parenthood joined us to teach girls to make powerful choices by providing workshops about personal expression, personal power and sexual health!

Donte from YSS performing a spoken word piece
with Mercer's Powerful Choices group
Youth Speaks Seattle: Personal Expression, Our Voices are Powerful!
We invited incredible poets Shelby Handler and Donte Johnson from the youth-led poetry program, Youth Speaks Seattle, to lead a creative writing workshop for our girls!  
In this workshop girls focused on the power of their voices through free writes and poetry! Shelby and Donte invited girls to write from their heart with open writing prompts centered on their voices, such as, “This is what I never told you….” “I love you because….” “I miss you because….” “An open letter to….”

Shelby  from YSS leading
 Denny's Powerful Choices Group

Each girl was invited to share what they had written and I was so proud to witness them step up and speak their truths! This deep self-reflection through writing is a key resiliency practice we continue to teach girls in our program through journal activities.  It is a gift to have Youth Speaks Seattle continue this practice with our girls and model poetry and writing as tool for social change and healing!  We are so grateful that girls had the space to write, recognize the power of their voices and explore their own personal expression through this workshop! Thank you Youth Speaks Seattle for encouraging our girls to raise their voices and speak to issues that matter to them! 

7 Star Women’s Kung Fu: Personal Power, Self-defense, and Boundaries

After we learned about the importance of personal expression, girls were invited to then examine their own personal power through self-defense, consent and boundaries! Our awesome community partners Gina Mares Kurtz and Michelle McVadon from 7 Star Women’s Kung Fu joined us to teach girls about powerful self defense techniques and how we can use not only our bodies, but also our voices in self defense and stating our boundaries!

Michelle from 7Star Women's Kung Fu
teaching Denny Participants self defense techniques

This was a very powerful process for girls, as they let out powerful energy when kicking and hitting the pads. Many girls commented that they felt strong, brave and empowered after they learned and practiced various self-defense techniques! 7 Star Women’s Kung Fu also encouraged girls to use their voices when defending themselves! They provided an opportunity  for girls to name situations that are difficult to say “no!” to. For instance, girls were invited to enact a scenario involving peer pressure and the difficulty of saying “no” to drinking in a skit. We also were able to speak about the challenges of saying “no” and setting boundaries in our own personal relationships. We were excited to have 7 Star Women’s Kung Fu share their mission in creating a nurturing and safe space for our girls, led by powerful women, through self defense and building strength and confidence through  martial arts! 

 Planned Parenthood: Sexual Health 101
Learning about personal power and boundaries helped pave a way for us to dig deeper and reflect on healthy and unhealthy relationships in our lives, especially pertaining to healthy sexuality! Our awesome community partner Adriana Espinoza from Planned Parenthood joined us for a brave, fun and informative discussion about sexual health and debunking myths around sexuality! 
Adriana invited girls to define what healthy sexuality meant to them and to share myths they heard about sexual health in a post-it note activity!
This activity opened up discussion and questions from youth pertaining to sex, birth control, pregnancy, ovulation, and sexually transmitted diseases.  We also spoke about the spectrum of sexuality. One of my favorite activities of the day was playing a fun game of "Believe it or Not," where Adriana shared statements about sexual health and girls held up signs if they "believed it" or "not"! 
Adriana teaching girls about sexual health 101
Planned Parenthood's visit allowed girls to have space to ask brave questions about sexual health and share in confidence about sexuality because of the safe space we created as a community!  What a fun interactive day! Super appreciative of Planned Parenthood's partnership with Powerful Voices and for Adriana's awesome energy and openness to answer honest questions from girls about sexuality!

Remembering our Goals and the Positive Impact of Community Partners
Each community partner's involvement aligned so well with our program's goals to help strong girls become strong women by:
  • Building A Safe & Healthy Community of Girls & Women
  • Knowing & Growing Self More Deeply: In Voice, Action, & Vision
  • Listening & Sharing With Others About Things That Matter Most To Us
  • Exploring Issues That Effect Women & Girls: In School, In Our Communities, & Our World
  • Celebrating The Power In Self & Sisterhood.

So much gratitude to our awesome community partners for helping girls use their voices through personal expression, explore their personal power in self defense and boundaries and creating a brave space to speak about healthy sexuality! 

Support these awesome, local organizations that are helping shape a more just world, visit their sites below: