In case you missed it, February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 in 10 teens have been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last year. As that statistic suggests, teen dating violence is a problem that crosses both geographic and demographic lines. And it’s a good bet that it’s a problem in your community, too.
Teen dating violence has many causes, but lack of self-esteem among girls is clearly a major factor. That’s why so many Junior Leagues have developed community-based programs that focus on self-esteem training and support for teen-age and younger girls.
Strong Girls, Bright Futures is a project of the Junior League of Gwinnett and North Fulton Counties that seeks to make a difference in the lives of girls in the 5th through 8th grades by coaching them on how to make positive choices and think critically. The one-day workshop addresses topics such as journaling, emotional management, positive self-image, diversity, bullying, setting goals, financial literacy and giving back to their community as a way to empower participants to use their intelligence, and aim to be strong, confident, creative, unique and accomplished. In addition to inner strength, the girls also learn about outer strength through exercise and healthy living.
The Junior League of Palo Alto*Mid-Peninsula aims to encourage teen girls to pursue their education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The League works to increase participation in Technovation, a global mobile app startup competition for girls ages 10-18 that challenges them to create apps for the purpose of solving real problems in their communities. Initiatives include building visibility in the community, recruiting local women to serve as coaches and mentors, organizing field trips to local tech companies and a regional pitch event to help participants prepare for the main competition. League volunteers also mentor a team of middle school girls in The Tech Museum of Innovation’s The Tech Challenge, an annual team design challenge for students in grades 4-12 that introduces and reinforces the science and engineering design process with a hands-on project geared to solving a real-world problem.
Positively More is a project of the Junior League of Greenwich designed to give pre-teen girls the tools to avoid compromising situations, lessen the consequences of potential conflicts and identify lessons learned by those challenges. Each full-day session consists of workshops moderated by professionals in the fields of teen counseling, youth services, social media & prevention/education. The League also works with younger girls through the Positively Me! program to hone their confidence, make good decisions, be assertive, and to express themselves. Over the course of a two-day session, 3rd grade girls participate in a variety of activities including song, dance, writing, crafts, and special projects.
Recognizing the importance of self-esteem in making good life decisions, the Junior League of Rochester developed a workshop program for at-risk teenage girls called GIRLSrock! to address the challenges that girls face, both in school and out. Delivered through partners like Girl Scout troops, the YMCA and high schools, the program provides guidance in personal finance, fitness, safety, the job market and nutrition.
But we also admire innovative national programs that address the self-esteem deficit among vulnerable girls.
Take Girls Inc., which provides more than 140,000 girls across the U.S. and Canada with life-changing experiences and solutions to the unique challenges girls face. Trained staff and volunteers build lasting, mentoring relationships in girls-only spaces that are physically and emotionally safe and where girls find a sisterhood of support with shared drive, mutual respect, and high expectations.
Girl Talk is a peer-to-peer mentoring program that trains high school girls as mentors and leaders for middle school girls in their communities. Supported by an adult female advisor, the program is available to all girls at no cost. (Consistent with the bottom up approach, the organization says that high school girls are often the catalyst for bringing Girl Talk to their school or community.)
Meeting twice a week in small teams of 8-20 girls, Girls on the Run teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The 24-lesson curriculum, taught by certified coaches, focuses on helping girls understand themselves and value relationships and teamwork.
It’s not that we’re saying that creating broader awareness of teen dating violence is not a valuable thing – it is. But we also embrace hands-on programs for addressing a core causal factor behind the problem – self-esteem for early teen girls!