WYSE Week is our annual nationwide celebration honoring the core pillars and mission of WYSE. This year, the theme was “Unapologetically YOU!” The week of April 12th, we highlighted the magic of self-expression and personal identity in each of our mentees and mentors. Through a full week of celebration and events, we focused on inclusivity, the power of your voice, and the importance of individuality.
WYSE Week began with a virtual field trip to the Smithsonian’s exhibit: “Girlhood: It’s Complicated.” Mentees and mentors across the nation gathered in a Zoom meeting to learn a brief history of influential women in politics, education, the workforce, and more. In lieu of the theme “Unapologetically YOU,” We asked the mentors and mentees to put in the chat what adjective, trait, or quirk that makes them…unapologetically them! Here are some great examples:
“Unapologetically gender nonconforming.”
Day 1: Virtual Field Trip to Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC
Though we were unable to be at the Smithsonian physically, mentors and mentees were still able to learn about women’s history in an interactive and virtual way. We discussed how a history of disenfranchisement of women in politics has not stopped many important female leaders, like teenager Naomi Wadler and Vice President Kamala Harris, from making their voices heard in order to invoke change. We learned about the history of women’s education and how many young girls had to work and were not able to receive an education.
We learned about Minnijean Brown whose bravery and commitment to receiving a fair education paved the way for many, and were able to admire her beautiful graduation dress. We saw how female athletic outfits have changed throughout history, as female involvement in sports has become more acceptable and widespread. We admired Dominique Dawes’ Olympic gymnastics leotard and discussed her accomplishments as an Olympic athlete. Lastly, we discussed the importance of embracing your identity and discussed how an LGBTGIA activist like Jazz Jennings was able to embrace her true identity and accept who she really is.
Day 2: Meet & Greet, Hang With WYSE on Zoom
Day 2 of WYSE Week was our Meet and Greet Event! After some short introductions, participants shared who their role model was. Lots of attendees mentioned their mothers and sisters as strong role models who embodied strength, resilience, and what it means to be a girl. Others described political figures, teachers, and celebrities that inspired them and forged their path forward. These introductions were followed by a screening and discussion of the poem “Dear Young Woman” by Britta B. We talked about how empowering the poem and its descriptions of the complexities of women were, pointing to lines such as “each of your breaths have minds and lives of their own”.
After this activity, we split into breakout groups discussing current events, education, work and career, and wellness and body talk. The current events breakout group discussed politics and their impact as well as how we related to the theme of “Unapologetically YOU”. The education breakout group discussed how we as students and women can combat racism and bullying in the world around us, tying this discussion back to our Smithsonian exhibit on Minnijean’s story. The work and career group shared their career goals and aspirations to become leaders. The body talk and wellness group talked about the impact of social media on body image and their favorite ways to stay active and healthy. We were all so excited to be able to have these intimate conversations with a great turnout of mentors from all across the country and even a few mentees from our USC and UCLA branch!
Day 3: Community Action Guest Speaker Joan Goodman, ASIF Foundation
Day 3 of WYSE Week was a mentor and alumni only chat with guest speaker Joan Goodman, licensed clinical social worker and founder of the Adolescent Self Injury Foundation (ASIF). Joan has worked with hundreds of self-injurous adolescents, young adults, and their families in efforts to make ASIF’s end goal, suicide prevention, a more prevalent reality.
Establishing a strong, trusting, and supportive relationship with adolescents is something integral to both ASIF and WYSE’s missions, but this is easier said than done. Joan shared her experiences and success methods on various topics such as earning and maintaining an adolescent’s trust, enabling adolescents to view their situation from different perspectives, and picking up on hints that someone may be struggling. Panda, Joan’s canine partner in crime, is one way that Joan creates a safe environment. The use of animals in therapy can foster a more welcoming space, enabling patients to open up. Cosmo, Joan’s prior therapy dog that now rests in doggy heaven, allowed the opportunity for adolescents to view their situation outside of themselves. When trying to convey the validity of a concern, Joan would flip the script and ask her clients: “What would you say or do if it was Cosmo in your situation and not you?” This method of transferring the situation onto Cosmo can help a patient more easily share and understand the complexity of their situations.
Joan also shared insight into “March Madness.” The March Madness phenomenon was something new to every person in the audience and we weren't talking about the NCAA tournament. Joan has noticed that the month of March seems to be one of the toughest times for adolescents, with spikes in self-injury and suicide rates. No one seems to know why exactly March is so difficult, yet another mystery of teenage behavior. You can combat March Madness by keeping an eye out for changes in behavior, even small changes can indicate something significant.
We are so grateful to have had this time with Joan and look forward to implementing her advice into our mentor-mentee relationships. Check out ASIF at: https://www.adolescentselfinjuryfoundation.com/
WYSE Week was a huge success overall! Thank you to everyone who participated!