YWE Girl Talk Boosts Mutual Respect
By Dianne Anderson
Middle school is a vulnerable time, an age when self-esteem either takes off toward a high point, or takes kids down the wrong road.
An upcoming conference for students 11-18 breaks out an itinerary almost like the way grownups do it. They’ll have continual workshops in a collegiate setting, light breakfast and lunch, some giveaways and fun, and adult conversations about the challenges and choices ahead.
On Saturday, March 23, the collaborative runs from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the 7th Annual “Girl Talk” at San Bernardino Valley College, located at 701 North Mount Vernon Avenue.
Tiffany James said YWE has teamed up with several great partners and programs around self-identity, and how not to be pressured by outside influences.
“Individuality is not having to be like everyone else, [it’s] making a pathway for your own future,” said James, vice president of YWE. “Everyone thinks they’re a leader, but they’re actually following and mimicking the wrong things.”
For starters, the girls will learn the ins and outs of social media, and how to avoid getting caught up with false impressions.
“The girls look to social media models as mentors,” she said. “No one is going to show their life going downhill, they look like they have all this money in the world.”
At the event, the girls will learn about what dangers lurk on street corners with human trafficking. Girls, especially low income, can lack self-esteem, and are most at risk.
She said that if they feel there’s nothing out there for them, that there’s not a future, or they have no choices, they end up being trafficked, or on the street.
The all-day event is hosted by Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers, a San Bernardino school board member, and president and CEO of Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation. Last week, Ms. Dowdy- Rodgers was recognized by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes with a Woman of the Year award.
James said the YWE self-esteem curriculum is embedded in several schools across San Bernardino County. They also want the young ladies to learn about resiliency, that they can be successful despite their mistakes.
After all, no one is perfect.
“We all fail, the most important thing is to get back up,” she said. “Don’t let the challenge you’re going through hinder you from what you want to do.”
So far, about 170 girls have registered for the event that features special guest hip/hop and rap artist, Ashanti Major.
Chaperones will be on site to ensure they keep track of all of participating youth.
On the boy side of the event, Edwin Johnson with CHORDS is teaming up with YWE along with their program partner, CAPS, which is providing the buses at all four of their school sites. Buses roll at 7:00 a.m. with staff escorts from CHORDS and Youth Action Project to take students to the event, and drop them back off.
Johnson said the CHORDS Youth Day aspect of the conference offers something important that the boys can learn at the Girl Talk event.
He said it’s about supporting the girls’ self-esteem, but it’s also teaching the boys the real value of respect.
“For Youth Day, it’s to bring support to our kids every year, to bring services, build social skills, and bullying prevention,” said Johnson, founder of CHORDS youth program, and also a partner with SBUSD.
He said they want students to understand how to react in conflict situations.
“Most of the time it ends up with fighting because they don’t know how to deal when a person talking about them,” he said.
Drama is predictable at that age for boys and girls. The challenge is teaching them to resolve the problem without using their fists.
“We’re trying to teach them coping skills, strategies to not engage in a fight or altercation, which is one of the reasons for being suspended or expelled out of the district.”
Right now, CHORDS works with about 80 students a week through CAPS Program. He also contracts with San Bernardino County Schools two days a week as an elective, along with outreach at two juvenile halls.
Creatively, through their music, he said the emphasis is on self-respect. He wants the young men to learn to respect young women the same as their own mothers, and their sisters.
He feels it can be a powerful opening of awareness. He said they want girls to show up, but he’s wants to get the guys there too.
“The hip-hop culture has taught young boys to disrespect women. At this event, for our workshop, we’re pushing respecting the opposite sex.”