Girls' LEAP is fortunate to have engaged Jeannetta Montissol, a wonderful counselor who has provided support to our Teens. Not only have the Teens valued their time with Jeannetta, she's also provided invaluable guidance to our leadership team. We asked her to share her insights for this newsletter.
Teen Voices Newsletter by Bijou, Shali & Zeinab
We hope you and your family are well and feeling hopeful, as we look forward to spring and getting COVID-19 under control. We deeply appreciate your commitment to girls and nonbinary youth. Thanks to the support of many of you, we have been able to continue our LEAP programming online, adding components in support of mental health and creating connections with youth across the isolation so many of us are suffering.
For this update, we thought you might prefer to hear directly from the youth we serve. Three of our Teen Mentors volunteered to write about their experiences with LEAP and with life in general during this pandemic year. We hope you find their perspectives illuminating.
Cynthia, Lynn and Raquel
Hi my name is Zeinab Yusuf and I am a Teen Mentor at Girls' LEAP. I have been with Girls' LEAP for 2 and a half years.
Girls' LEAP prioritizes the mental and physical health of Teen Mentors. Every other Saturday, we meet with Jeannetta, a Black female licensed therapist, to help us understand the negative environments around us and learn how we can still manage to be ourselves by getting rid of the toxic energy. My experience with Saturday self-care is always refreshing. I feel more relieved and happier with myself. I also tend to work more on my mental health by sleeping earlier, doing positive affirmations, and fighting the negative thoughts in my head. Jeannetta has taught me how to properly manage my time by putting time limits for certain apps on my phone, dividing up my work on certain days, and how to cope with the troubling events happening around the country.
Girls' LEAP also offers yoga and meditation sessions with Anjali and Gerica. They lead sessions where we relax our bodies by stretching after sitting all day staring at a screen. I have never felt more relieved and energetic after a long day of meetings. I recommend this to anyone with a busy schedule. Lastly, at the end of the week, Gerica helps our physical health by recommending videos and workout sessions we can utilize online.
My name is Bijou Camara. I am a Teen Mentor at Girls’ LEAP. The focus for today is on an event, one of many with the Indigenous community, called “Communal Healing for our Future” hosted by So’oh-Shinálí Sister Project. Girls' LEAP Teen Mentors were able to participate in learning about traumatic generational experiences from which the community is trying to heal. We heard many accounts of keeping the traditions alive, even with the heavy erasure imposed on them by Residential Schools, which were put in place to create a divide in native culture. Indigenous kids were taken to these schools, without their consent, and taught European ways to the point where they forgot their own. This effect has proven to be detrimental to their identity.
The Indigenous communities are working towards fixing what was broken by use of therapy and rebuilding within their communities. It was lovely to participate and heal with the panelist at this meeting. It created a bridge of unity between different races, especially for those who know of cultural erasure. For me personally, just hearing them talk about the issue allowed me to heal a part of my inner turmoil, knowing that my community's issues are not limited to just me. If you'd like to learn more about their work, click this link.
Hi all my name is Shali Holliday. I am a Lead Teen Mentor with Girls’ LEAP. The pandemic as a whole has been very traumatic and draining for us all but today, let’s take a closer look on how it is affecting our youth. Saniya is 17 years old, a senior in high school and another Teen Mentor with Girls' LEAP. Saniya, like many other youth, has expressed having struggles during the pandemic. The pandemic has forced students to stay at home without any outside contact. The lack of interaction has made Saniya feel “isolated” and this has taken a huge toll on her mental health. On top of her mental health declining, she is going through an insane amount of stress as a senior with college coming up soon. The lack of understanding from adults has made her feel like the “youth as a whole have been forgotten." She wanted to have a prom and a graduation, as she yearned to have all the rights of passages that were promised to all the other classes. These issues may seem small to others looking in, but the world needs to be aware of how this isolation has affected youth. We, the youth, ask everyone to be aware of the struggles we face and recognize that our lives were taken and thrown upside down at the peak of our high school years.
An important part of self-care and mental health is getting outdoors when possible. Led by our Program Director, our Teen Mentors spent a cold weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, having fun and learning to snowshoe and cross-country ski.