A friend of mine recently reminded me of this quote: Be who you needed when you were younger. I don’t know about you, but when I was younger I didn’t have a whole lot of people to look up to. That quote really resonates with me because when I think back on Teenage Dania, I want so much more for her than what she had. I’m not saying I had a terrible adolescence. My adolescence was just what you’d expect it to be for a teenage girl in the early 2000s. I just mean I wish I could go back and tell her she had so much potential and that all those things she was afraid of doing were nothing to be afraid of after all. I wish I could tell her to stop being so self-involved and become a little more aware of the people and the world around her. I wish I could tell her the petty things she worried about back then would have no significance a few years down the road. I wish I could just hug her and tell her that everything would turn out just fine.
But I can’t go back in time, so I’m doing the next best thing: Paying it forward. I didn’t have anyone to mentor me when I was young, so I want to become a mentor to teen girls now. Enter: Difficult Names Project, or DNP for short. DNP is an organization that provides a safe space for junior high and high school aged girls to discuss ideas openly and then write about them. It also provides them with a mentor throughout their school careers. Here’s how it works:
Twice a month for two hours on a Saturday morning, DNP members will come together to discuss a single topic. The topic will range from body image to college applications to their ambitions to everything in between.The conversations will be non-judgmental, open, and real. During the first fifteen minutes, they will be given a random writing prompt to write about in their journals. This is to get their creative flow going and ignite their imaginations.For one hour following this first exercise, we will discuss a topic and let everyone have an opportunity to discuss their ideas in a safe and controlled (but uncensored) environment. At the end of the topic discussion, the girls will write down what they learned that day. That’s it!
Each girl will be provided with a mentor they can turn to for questions and guidance on any number of subjects. The conversations will be confidential. They will be able to check-in with their mentors for the last fifteen minutes of the session, but communication via calls and texts will always remain open.
It’s no secret that being a teenager is tough. It’s also such an important time of their lives. Their brains aren’t even fully developed and they’re stuck between feeling like a kid and an adult. On top of that, it’s when they have to make some of the most life-impacting decisions, like whether or not they want to go to college or start a family as soon as they’re old enough to vote. There’s so much pressure put on teenagers that sometimes we forget just how young they really are…how impressionable and vulnerable. I don’t think it’s fair to ask so much of them at such a young age, but, alas, I do not run society and so the next best thing I can do is help in any little way I can.
If you live in the Rio Grande Valley, please support DNP by spreading the word about the program. If you know any girls who would benefit from this initiative or if you’re interested in being a mentor, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our first meeting will take place at the Weslaco Public Library Meeting Room from 12-2 p.m. on February 29, 2020.