LaPorcha, Teen Mentor
When I was 14 I started Girls’ LEAP as a participant. At first, I hated Girls’ LEAP! My friends and I were terrors in class, we didn’t participate, we didn’t listen, and we made things hard for our teachers. I remember thinking,“ I don’t need to be here, I know how to defend myself: I know how to fight!” I had a really bad attitude. People told me I was intimidating. Originally, I wasn’t sure about the Teen Mentor Program. In the end my best friend, Angela, and I made a deal that we would both do it. I’m really glad I did.
Now, I’m 17, and have been a Teen Mentor for 2.5 years. Changing my attitude was (and is) an ongoing battle. I can still have a bad attitude but it’s calmed down a lot. I’ve really matured too. I now have better control of my temper.
The most meaningful part of Girls’ LEAP to me is getting to meet new girls and impacting their lives. It’s great being a positive role model, and guiding them towards a better path. For me Girls’ LEAP means making a big impact. It means being able to meet a lot of girls, make a lot of friends, share stories and really get involved in a worthy cause. Being able to impact their lives and help them is helping me because together, we’re changing the world.
When I first heard twenty teenage girls shouting “NO!” something deep inside me stirred, and I knew I had to get involved with Girls’ LEAP. I couldn’t remember the last time I had used my own voice assertively. As a teen, I felt pressure to conform to conventional standards of beauty, no matter what the cost.
I have been working with our Teen Mentors to help them grow as young women and break their own silences. They hold more power in determining their lives than they realize. I believe our world would be entirely different if the voices of these young women of color were heard and valued.
At Girls’ LEAP, I found women who mentored and challenged me even as I learned to support the Teen Mentors. I realized that physical self-defense can be exciting and difficult, but breaking our internal silences and asserting the right to be our body’s keeper is the real challenge.
Leshemah, Teen Mentor
When I first found Girls’ LEAP my friend and I were unfamiliar with the company and the Teen Mentor job. I remember when I fist walked into training all I heard was the no’s and saw the kicks – which you can imagine looked a little strange at first sight. Throughout the training I realized the extent of emotional depth and the intensity of the experience.
The most meaningful part has been working with young kids. I remember my first workshop was a one-day workshop in a community center. I was weary and didn’t know what to expect, but then one girl game up to me and said, “I want to do what you do when I grow up.” That’s what really got to me. It showed the girls’ appreciation of the program, which allowed me to embrace it as well.
I wanted to work with Girls’ LEAP because I always hoped to work with women who had survived sexual assault, to help them deal with the emotional repercussions of having been through that. I learned about Girls’ LEAP and I thought, “Wow that’s even better, I could help prevent this from happening in the first place.”Before Girls’ LEAP I was really quiet and shy. I avoided confrontation, even if it meant being unhappy. Now I speak up for myself because I’ve come to realize that although it might feel a little bit awkward, speaking up for myself is important and necessary. “My comfort and my happiness are worth working for.”
Girls’ LEAP taught me that an aggressive attitude can make a dangerous situation more volatile. I believed that I needed a weapon, because I wasn’t comfortable with the power of my body and my mind. LEAP does not make me think that I’m superwoman, but I have learned to avoid and escape dangerous situations.
My own experiences are a vital advantage when working with Girls’ LEAP participants. We come from the same neighborhoods. The fact that a participant can identify herself in me is influential. I want other young women to understand that they have the same capacity to be empowered and safe.