The Power of Teen Leadership

By Coach Julianne, MSW intern from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and coach in the Teen Programs.

I have been working in the Teen Programs since the end of August, but I have only begun interacting with the teens. Most of the workshops, Leader to Leader Interviews, and Teen Saturday Events are in the upcoming months. However, I had an experience at a workshop where I was co-coaching with one other teen that I will never forget.

Back in October, Stephanie (a Teen Programs participant) and I traveled to Volta Elementary for a Teen Reach Workshop. In short, the Teen Reach workshop is offered at two different schools (in this case Hibbard Elementary and Volta) once a year. This is a grant-funded two week workshop given by two organizations separately to boys and girls at the schools.

We struggled to get girls to show up and stay at programming. The average number of girls in attendance was three.  At first, this was frustrating. But I learned that if you touch just one girl, this is something to be grateful for.

One girl who consistently came, we will call her M, was particularly shunned by most other girls. M has some developmental disabilities which is apparent in the way she talks and behaves. She has trouble speaking up because she gets nervous about what she is going to say. Stephanie was the perfect coach and role model for M.

Stephanie helping a participant at a Teen Squad workshop
Stephanie helping a participant at a Teen Squad workshop

Stephanie would always pair up with M while doing healthy relationships curriculum. Even though Stephanie really did not know much of anything about M, she had the most wonderful compliments to give her. Stephanie’s “High Fives” put the biggest smile on M’s face. It was as if she had never been given a compliment before.

At the end of family night (the last night of programming), M was able to speak up in front of all of the parents. I was so proud of her; but more importantly, you could tell that she was proud of herself. I have no doubt that it was because of Stephanie. It is amazing how, in a short period of time, one girl can touch another in such a way that her boost in confidence is evident to others, and to herself.

-Coach Julianne


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