Labeling Students by Maria Isela Ventura

In this generation, it’s not just easy to judge anymore. Yet, labeling students has become routine. We believe that because someone has a history or comes from a different culture that we will view certain things differently. In very few cases, it’s true. But not always.

Being a teenager in a high school, I can see how our differences separate us. We may not want to hang out with other students who have labels like bisexuals, athletes, nerds, gothic, or, in my case, Christian.

Labeling students

 

I get told by others; that don’t even share the same religion as me, that

I should dress a certain way.

I should pray a certain way.

I should speak a certain way.

I should live a certain way.

 

I never let it get to me, but at the end of the day, these things are stereotypical. And in some cases, labeling others should be considered rude.

A lot of comments do hurt. They can leave permanent damage; especially if they’re from the people closest to us, like our parents. Adults, please don’t label your child! Everyone has a different belief system, and we should all learn to respect and understand that.

Labels are not for people

I am Christian. I decide for myself daily who I want to be and how I want to live just like any other student out there should. But because of my religion, most people believe that I shouldn’t be allowed to have the job I have that helps teens avoid serious life changing decisions. I shouldn’t be allowed to inform others about sexual health as a preventative method to teen pregnancy and STI’s, because I shouldn’t even know this stuff.

open minded Christian

I am told constantly that my faith is not correct because of how open minded I am. It does get hard. So the question is, what should I do about it?  

Well, every day I realize that words can not define me. It should be my actions that speak for me. I want to help thousands of teenagers and accomplish what I want to do in this life. But first, I need to love myself and not let anyone tell me who I should be. I must first prove others wrong and show my classmates that a Christian can be so much more than just a label complete with steroetypes.

I am a Christian Latina that believes every teenager out there should have the key to information about sexual relationships.

Everyone has a different way of seeing things, and we need to learn to respect that. If we constantly try harder to be accepted, we just may never be accepted. But if we stop to love the way we are regardless of who cares and who doesn’t, then our differences become beautiful.

labels hurt

So, if you’re somebody out there that gets judged and labeled, understand that

it’s okay to prove people wrong and

show them who you really are.

Never get put down by words.

If you want to do something that seems unusual for the people around you, but you know you will benefit from it,

still go for it.

 

Never be ashamed of your true colors.

ReligionDefine Youtself

Background

Race   

Ethnicity

Gender

All these things are really important, but they don’t define you. Only you get the power to define who you really are. Who you are as a person in your community, in your job, in your school, or in your home, will be the same person you will come to love.

Teens CAN Make Healthy Decisions. Ask Them How!

Every summer the Garfield County PREP interns tie dye a t-shirt to wear when engaging in their community and representing the PREP program. The shirt is designed to encourage adult-child communication by stating that teens CAN make healthy decisions. Then, we tempt you to ‘ask them how‘.Teens CAN Make Healthy Decisions

Because PREP is a sexuality health education program, the idea of talking to adults; especially ones we don’t know personally, about healthy decisions in relation to topics around sex can be intimidating and down right uncomfortable!

Talking about sex

Of course, that is NOT our goal!!

Besides, we want young people to realize having healthy sexual relations is sooooooo much more than just the physical act of.

So, this summer we asked the interns to share one way in which they; or teens in general, can make healthy decisions. The list of suggestions that they generated was worthy of personal note taking by the other adults in the room.

They are that good!

How many are you already doing?

How many could you add?

Here’s the list in no particular order:

Listen to Others     Listen to Others

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

Talk to New People

Get Involved in School Activities

Eat green food   Eat ‘Green’ Food (made green by nature)

Exercise

Drink Water

Get Involved In Sports

straight out of the closet   Be Comfortable In Your Skin

Be Self Affirming

Give Hugs

Pet Animals

proper condom use   Properly Use Condoms

Youth becoming community involved   Get Involved in Your Community

GIVE with Jenna Bush  Find Something You Love In a Hobby

You see, teens CAN make healthy decisions! and it doesn’t have to be all about sex either!

            

Life Changing Decisions

Life Changing Decisions

Hello, my name is Sami. 

This is my true teen pregnancy story about when I got pregnant.

I was 15 at the time. 

I had only been with the guy for about 2 months.

I didn’t really know anything about sex. 

I didn’t even bother and make sure to use a condom.

I want to share my story and the stories of others, because, like many other young women, we have to make a huge decision that will cause a huge change in our life.

I wrote this because I want people out there to know that there are many options and that there are people who know what they are going through. 

Birth Control Methods

  • Pill: a type of medicine that you take every day. Birth control pills contain hormones to prevent pregnancies by stopping you from ovulating.  The pill is affordable and 99% effective – IF you take it when you are supposed to.  The pill can also have additional health benefits.
  • Implant:  lasts up to 4 years. It’s a thin metal stick that goes under your arm. The implant can have side effects and contains hormones. It’s one of the most effective birth control methods: it’s more than 99% effective. There’s no way of making a mistake as long as you have it inserted and removed by a medical professional.  The implant can be pretty expensive, but you can qualify for help and might not even pay for anything.
  • IUD: a tiny device that is put into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is very efficient just like the implant and is available with and without hormones.  IUD’s can last for about 12 years. They are sometimes referred to as Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives or LARC’s.

The only Birth Control Method that helps protect from STD’s AND Pregnancy:

  • Condom: 98% effective when used properly. But, if they are not put on right or if you aren’t careful, they are only about 85% effective. Condoms are the only form of birth control that protects you and your partner from STD’S. They stop sperm from entering the vagina.  Condoms are inexpensive and easy to get. They are also easy to put on.
Birth Control Method's

Teva Women’s Health INC.

 Abortion

Abortion is an option when someone is terminating a pregnancy. It’s often performed during the first few weeks during a pregnancy. There are different methods of abortion; one is the pill which is more of a natural process. There are two kinds of surgical abortions which involve a quick operation. The first one is the vacuum aspiration that can be done only up to 15 weeks and the dilation and evacuation which can be done up to 15 – 24 weeks.

There are people that consider abortion as a horrible thing to do. However, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion during their lifetime. Even though abortions are common and legal, people don’t know how hard and difficult it is to make a decision like that. Chance is that afterward you may still be left with guilt, pain and having to deal with the judgment of everyone out there. No one goes up to you and offers you help. It is so hard to take care of and raise a baby. But having to be forced or guilt-tripped to have the baby can make things much more difficult. I have had friends that have told me about their experience, and I can see how much they struggled to make a decision.

 

Abortion Fact's

 

True Teen Pregnancy Stories

I ended up getting pregnant because the condom broke. I took 5 pregnancy test, but the only one said that I was pregnant. The other 4 said that I wasn’t. I ignored it and just thought that it was wrong because a few days later I started my period. I found out I was pregnant the day that I lost the baby. I had gone to the doctor because I was in a lot of pain. When I got to the doctor he told me that I was pregnant but that my body couldn’t support the pregnancy. The doctor gave me a pill to help me get the baby out, and for the next two hours, I was sitting on the toilet just waiting for the baby to come out. The doctor told me that if my body had been able to support the pregnancy that I would have died while giving birth because I wasn’t healthy enough. I look back at that and wish that I could have had my baby; to take care of it and hold it in my arms. But at the same time, I’m glad that it didn’t happen, because I wouldn’t have been able to watch it grow up.

-Unknown

abortion a woman's right to choose

I was only 15 when I got pregnant. The worst part was that it was conceived at a party. There were so much drinking and things I wasn’t supposed to be around. I was offered a drink by my boyfriend. I remember him telling me to go to the room. I was anxious but excited. Well, a month passes by and I start feeling weird. At first, I thought I was just getting sick. Some friend put the idea in my head of ‘I might be pregnant.’ So I bought a home pregnancy test which came out positive. I was afraid that sent a text to my boyfriend. When we met up I told him. His reaction was bad. He didn’t want it. He broke up with me. I was afraid and alone. A week went by before I decided to tell my mom. My mom was even worse. But she saw something in me, I guess, and, well, she decided to support me. Nine months later, I have a precious little boy. I got help from many people and even got child support from my ex. I was close to aborting him, but it wasn’t in me. I’m 17 now, and my boy is healthy and happy. So am I.

-Unknowntrue teen pregnancy stories

When I found out I was pregnant I didn’t even think twice about aborting. I saw that was my only option. My boyfriend and I were so young, we were not ready. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I got information from the internet in how to have a miscarriage by home remedies. I took one, and I wasn’t sure it was gonna work. Later that night, however, I was bleeding badly. I took care of it by myself. Till this day no one knows what I did, and I hope no one ever will. I’m glad I didn’t keep the baby because things went bad and with a baby, it would have been worse.

-Unknown

My Story

I had support from my family, but they still wanted me to have an abortion to make things “easier”. In a way I felt forced to do it, even my mom had set up an appointment at the doctors. My decision was made. I didn’t get to make the decision, and I know how it is to not have a voice.

I wanted to take responsibility but it didn’t happen.

One thing led to another, and, well, I had a miscarriage. I felt guilty and blamed myself for what happened. I believed I had caused the miscarriage myself for allowing my mom to make that call for me.  It was really hard for me, and, as you can see by all our personal stories, the choices made weren’t easy

By sharing some information and adding personal stories I hope that other young ladies know that they’re not alone. Many others have had to make hard life-changing decisions.

A Teen’s Perspective On Today’s Issues

A Teen’s Perspective on Today’s Social Issues

Maria Esquivel is a current senior at Basalt High School who has chosen to interpret a teen’s perspective on social issues through art as her capstone project. She has created a series of political cartoons in various mediums inspired by a few of many problems in today’s society that have contributed to widespread debate.

Unity

Women's March Inspiration

Medium: Colored Pencil

This tessellation art titled “Unity” was inspired by recent women’s marches and their widespread message of unity amongst women of all backgrounds against injustices such as: healthcare rights, violence against women, gender wage gaps and underrepresentation.

It’s Everyone’s Problem

gun reform

Medium: Watercolor

“It’s Everyone’s Problem” is inspired by recent student-led gun reform efforts in response to mass shootings that have happened primarily in the United States. Though efforts are mostly student-led, it is clear that gun reform is something people from all backgrounds have to work to enact.

I See Myself

Female Representation

Medium: Pencil                                                                          (The characters represented in this art belong to their rightful creators. No profit was made for the creation and publication of this art.)

Today’s media has contributed greatly to the representation of women and the inspiration of young girls to follow in the footsteps of their female role models. Those role models are being seen more and more in traditionally male-dominated media and fields now. “I See Myself” is inspired by the strength and hope that female heroes have given to women who have been underrepresented.

Screenagers Movie Review

Screenagers Movie Review

Recently PREP had the pleasure of seeing the movie “Screenagers” with 3 teens and 3 adults and asking for their movie review.

Two of the adults work in education and have young children of their own.

The third adult was a parent to one of the teens who attended.

Prior to seeing the movie, I had asked one of the adults who works in education what her students who had seen it thought of the movie. She laughed when she reported one student’s “Screenagers” movie review was that they didn’t like it, but the teacher would because she’s a parent. We agreed that was probably the typical teen response to a movie that focuses on the unhealthy and sometimes dangerous aspects of teens’ near constant use of social media!

So what were we expecting when we invited teens and adults to share a table at a recent showing of the movie?

To be honest, I expected the teens to give it an honest listen and then to respond with a ‘meh, that’s not us, though’ kind of reaction.

I was hoping the adults who work in education and struggle daily with phones in their classrooms – and frankly have all but given up on fighting the fight – would be reinvigorated to strengthen their resolve around removing phones from their classrooms and bestowing the glories of being disconnected.

And for the parent who attended with their teen? I could only hope it would give them reason to have a conversation afterwards and not create any additional conflict around the subject.

It was not surprising that the adults (myself included) who work in education didn’t find the movie earth-shattering or mind-blowing. I think we already knew most of the dangers and downsides. However, we all agreed that the movie gained credibility by balancing the problem between teens AND adults!

YES, adults are on social media, and their phones in general, in ways that hinder good relationship building and communication, too.  Teens and adults alike need to take time to put the phones down and have face to face conversations. We all agreed that the movie helped us to be more aware of how our own usage impacts the people in our lives.

Adults on phonesTeens on phones

What was surprising was the depth in which the teens responded. There was not one ‘yeah, but’ to be heard!

Teen Perspective

One teenager who has her eyes set on a medical profession wrote:

I thought “Screenagers” was a pretty great and informative movie. It presented real facts in a concise and entertaining way that helped me understand the impact of technology on today’s youth.
As a youth myself, I thought I knew a lot already about the effects of technology. But having actual scientific proof and research presented to me was very helpful in adding to my knowledge. I think my biggest takeaway from “Screenagers” would be the importance of time and how it should be used to focus on what is truly around you, not on what’s on the screen.
Knowing this teen and her interest in the brain, how it works and scientific facts in general, I found it refreshing that she could admit to knowing some but not all and finding nuggets to take away from the movie. Afterwards, I questioned whether other teens – you know, the ones who don’t have a vested interest in the workings of the brain – would also find the scientific proof and research helpful. She confessed that some students may be turned off but, in general, she believes teens are interested in knowing how a part of their body works and would welcome the information when presented in such an entertaining way that doesn’t intend to denigrate the teenage spirit. Mind blown! Hope restored!Where Focus Goes

Adult Child Communication

Another teen who attended with her mom shared in some adult-child communication afterwards. Here are their thoughts:
I’m so glad I came to the screening. I feel like I’m always arguing with my parents about my phone and social media. I don’t use my phone that often but I like having it around. My parents worry about what I do on social media and even if I show them they feel anxious. The screening helped my mom understand it and she talked to me after. This made it so much better because it allows me to show her I can be responsible and know right from wrong. I learned a lot throughout the screening and have ideas on how to limit time on my phone. After the screening I feel like I get so much more sleep and use my phone in more productive ways.
Being a parent of a teenager is pretty difficult. Nowadays having social media there makes it pretty sketchy. I don’t know what my kid is doing and how it can affect her. This screening really helped out. It gave me ideas and insight on what social media really is. It made me understand multiple ways on how it’s used. It made me feel more confident with my child using it and me monitoring it as a parent. Talking to my daughter afterwards was a big bonus. We had a few rules using the screening as a guide. We all make time for our phones but make sure to not touch them when we are talking. It shouldn’t be restricted rather used as a tool to build responsibility. I really enjoyed it and if there were another screening I’d go and watch it. It made me understand and be more comprehensive. That’s what we need as parents, not rules and restrictions, rather a guide and tools to use.
THIS is what we’re about at PREP; Adult-Child Communication! We are so glad we made the attempt to engage youth and adults in thought-provoking reflections and conversations over a topic that can often times escalate quickly into an argument that is most likely repeated on multiple occasions. We are so glad that we can foster adults discussing difficult topics with their teenage children. We look forward to more opportunities to engage youth and adults in meaningful conversations and are thankful to the organizers of this great event.

 

 

Padres Latinos Hablando de Sexo? by Maria Isela Ventura

Padres latinos hablando de sexo?
Suena inusual
Por qué tendrían nuestros padres la necesidad de hacerlo?

Al crecer en un hogar hispano, escuché la palabra ‘sexo’ con bastante frecuencia. Me enseñaron las reglas sobre relaciones sexuales a una edad muy temprana.

Crecer de tal manera, esa conversación se volvió normal para mí.

Cuando el tema fue mencionado por un amigo mientras comíamos durante el lonche escolar, zanahorias y sándwiches de crema de cacahuate, mis amigos se sorprendieron al saber que sabía mucho sobre un tema que sus padres nunca habían compartido con ellos.

Se asustaron y huyeron de la conversación. No sabían cómo reaccionar o qué decir.

Me sentí avergonzada porque sabía algo que quizás no debería saber.

No podía creer que me enseñaron todos los nombres de cada parte del cuerpo por la que ellos estaban avergonzados.

¿Cómo podrían mis amigos no entender de lo que estaba hablando?

Empecé a interrogarlos y comenzaron a preguntarme. Y fue entonces cuando la la realidad de la pregunto me golpeó.

¿Tus padres no te han hablado de esto?

Todos se miraron el uno al otro y me dieron la misma respuesta.
No.
Les conté sobre mi madre soltera y cómo no deberían temer al tema. Les expliqué por qué esto es tan importante y por qué debería tomarse muy en serio.

Años más tarde todavía tengo el recuerdo en la cabeza pero no las mismas preguntas. Ahora entiendo por qué no podían entenderme.
Sus padres también estaban asustados.
Aterrorizados. Nerviosos.

Pero lo noté más en mis amigos hispanos. Tuvieron que aprender sobre el sexo a través del sistema de salud de las escuelas, lo cual es genial, pero no es lo mismo que cuando un miembro cercano le habla al respecto.

Los latinos tienen una cultura donde
hablar de partes del cuerpo es algo divertido y no serio.
Donde la mujer no puede hablar del período menstrual delante de los padres y
donde los niños tienen que aprender a estar orgullosos de sus penes.

Es por eso que es esencial que los jóvenes hablen con sus padres, y los padres hablen con sus hijos. Y así en el futuro habrá menos problemas en nuestras familias y habrá menos accidentes sexuales.

En lugar de cuestionar lo que nos han enseñado, debemos tener el coraje de hablar en voz alta a nuestros padres y hacerles preguntas para que desencadene algo en ellos para encontrar respuestas para nosotros.

Si ellos ven que muestras interés en un tema del que saben muy poco, buscarán información que solo beneficiará a nuestra generación y a las muchas más por venir.

Latino Parents Talk About Sex? by Maria Isela Ventura

Written by Maria Isela Ventura, Middle School Student

Latino Father Talks Sex Latino parents talking about sex?  Latino Mother Talks Sex

Sounds unusual.

Why would our guardians ever have the need to do it?

Growing up in a Hispanic household, I heard the word ‘sex’ quite often. I was taught the rules of sexual relationships at a very young age. Growing up in such a way that became normal to me.

So when the topic was brought up by a friend over a meal of carrots and peanut butter sandwiches, my friends were surprised to hear that I knew so much about a topic their parents had never shared before.

They became scared and shied away from the conversation. Teens Talk About Sex

They didn’t know how to react
or what to say.

I felt embarrassed
like I knew something I shouldn’t.

I couldn’t believe I was taught the names of every body part they were ashamed about.

How could my friends not understand what I was talking about?

I began to question them and they began to question me. And that’s when the winning question hit me.

Haven’t your parents talked to you about this?

They all looked at each other and gave me the same answer.

No.

I told them about my single mom and how they shouldn’t fear the topic. I explained why this is so important and why it should be taken very seriously.

Years later I still have the memory in my head but not the same questions. Now I understand why they couldn’t understand me.

Their parents were also scared. Nervous Parents
Terrified.
Nervous.

Jokes about body parts

 

But I noticed it more in my Hispanic friends. They had to learn about sex through the schools’ health system, which is great, but not the same as when a close family member talks to you about it.

 

Latinos have a culture where
talking about body parts is something funny
and not serious.

 

 

 

Father Daughter Talk

Where the women can not talk about periods in front of fathers and

where boys have to learn to be proud of their penises.Garfield County PREP Teaches About Sexual Health

 

 

 

 

 

That’s why it’s essential for young people to talk to parents and parents to talk to their children. So in the future there are less problems in our families and fewer sexual accidents happening.

Instead of questioning what we’ve been taught, we should get the courage to speak up to our parents and ask them questions so it triggers something in them to find answers for you.

If they see that you show interest in a topic that they know very little about, they will seek information that will only benefit our generation and the many more to come.

 

What PREP Has Meant To Me; A Teen’s Perspective on Community Engagement

Community Engagement

Pregnancy prevention can take a variety of directions when trying to reach teens. During the summertime in Garfield County Colorado teen interns are paid for their community engagement while volunteering at local events, festivals like Strawberry Days and with other non-profit agencies; some of which have very different missions than preventing teen pregnancy. Trail Removal

Taking the stance that intended prevention outcomes have more to do with relationship building than most anything else, we have attempted to connect youth with the trusted adults who are working to bring positive opportunities to their communities in a wide variety of ways.

ContemplatingJust because you work with teens, however, doesn’t mean you know exactly what they’re really thinking.

You may think your ideas are super creative, fun and offer potential for lighting sparks for future hobbies or careers.

You know they will build skills for self-reliance

You know teens will be introduced to agencies that you hope they will never need to access.

You hope to debunk the myth that ‘there’s nothing to do here.’

But how do you know it’s resonating in any way, shape or form?

Well, we asked our interns to jot down the reasons PREP should continue or what PREP has meant to them.

Keeping in mind that “PREP” is more than just what we do during the summers. It also includes the lessons they get through Draw The Line, Respect The Line in middle school grades 6 – 8 and the one year of Be Proud! Be Responsible! or Street Smart In high school. Here’s what our interns had to say:

Teen’s Perspective

Habitat for Humanity Volunteers

 

What PREP has meant to me is going out of my comfort zone + experiencing so many great things around the community! –Dani

 

 

 

 

Really fun and a learning experience.  Also trail building was fun. –Spencer

MGirls at Workeeting new people, learning about my community and it was a fun experience. –Liah

[PREP] Made it easier for me to talk about sex. –Maria

PREP has given me the support to make healthy decisions. PREP has helped me be involved in my community. –Cintia

Hanging out with fun little kids at Game On.  And learned about peers like me. –ColinBoys_at_Work

Helping out our community and educating them. It should continue because it’s a great organization that has educated many teens about an important subject. –Erik

PREP educates youth about topics some parents can’t/won’t give their child. It is important that we educate our community in the Roaring Fork Valley about safe sex and preventing unplanned pregnancies and STI’s PREP is the perfect company to educate the community. Not only does PREP educate on safe sex, but we’re also very immersed in other activities that benefit the Roaring Fork Valley.  –Chip

Mountain Fair Gyro Booth

 

PREP has given me an opportunity to share my thoughts on sexual health and show me how to make healthy decisions.

PREP has given me tools that will help me and my peers. –Nathaly

 

 

 

The impact PREP has had on me was bigger than I expected. I learned so much throughout this program. I not only learned how to prevent things and talk to adults about consent and such, but I learned ways to get involved. I met so many people and had so much fun and hope to do it again. It was a great experience and I hope it grows and expands throughout the years to get more people involved. Thanks to all the people along the way and for all the events organized. -Liz

Community Engagement Volunteering RFOV

Prep has changed my way of thinking in many ways. For example I’m more open to talking about sex with adults and or other teenagers. Before Prep I feel like I tried to avoid these topics. I’m definitely less ignorant, and stopped saying “this is irrelevant, this won’t happen to me”. It’s not all about sex though, its taught me just to be more open minded in general. it provides more information and support than what you get at school. I love all the volunteering we do especially during the summer. We get to meet new people, and just make different friends. Without prep I wouldn’t even be aware these events are going on, because teens don’t really participate in these sorts of things. But as a group we have fun and enjoy going out to these different activities. I’m thankful we get to make new memories and have fun! Teenagers need to understand that to have fun we don’t have to include alcohol, drugs, sex, the law. Prep should continue because it does a great job supporting teens through rough times, providing the public with useful information, helping adults who need volunteers, giving teens something healthy to do, etc. In general Prep is just an awesome program! -Erica

Habitat for Humanity

We have learned that if you give teens space and time to be themselves; as annoying as that can sometimes be, when they’re done acting goofy, they really have meaningful things to say. They have feelings that are deep, influenced by their experiences and relevant to the lives they are navigating. This group of teens did not disappoint. Please, hear their messages and recognize the importance of having this kind of education and experience in their formative and sometimes impulsive years. We here at Garfield County PREP are humbled and grateful for their contributions.

Healthy Decisions 

Teens Make Healthy Decisions Personal Responsibility Engagement Program

Give Them an Inch: Condom Use Instruction

You know the saying, ‘give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile’? Well, give these two PREP interns freedom to create with medically accurate, age appropriate sexual health knowledge, and you get an instructional video on proper condom use!
condom use
While the singing isn’t pitch perfect, the steps to proper condom use are indeed correct. In fact, these young men are so interested in getting it right, they’ve even made sure you know to get consent before anything else!! Plus, they don’t shy away from differing personal preferences and the often left out components of a healthy sexual relationship; pleasure and fun.

condom know howSo, the next time you’re thinking about engaging in a consensual sexual encounter that would require an exterior condom to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection, watch this educational and entertaining video to reduce your risk of an oops moment.

Still too embarrassed to go to your local drug store to buy condoms? Check out these local resources where you can get condoms for free. Free of cost. Free of judgment.

Enjoy!

 

Poetry From the Heart; No Rhyme but Reason

Youth Voice thru the Spoken Word

This summer Garfield County PREP teens were given the opportunity to create original drug PSA’s with the intention of presenting at a youth open mic night in a local community. Some of the teens chose to create videos to deliver their drug prevention message. Josefina Venegas of Rifle, CO opted to write poetry from the heart and delivered her work in the spoken word format. While her poetry does not follow a rhyming or lyrical structure, there’s a reason she writes the way she does. She wants to tell her story, and she wants you to listen.

 

Josefina’s Story

When you see someone who is maybe in their teen years, comes from a different country, speaks a different language, has skin of a darker shade than you, don’t dismiss them as having nothing to offer. If they’re acting out or experimenting with drugs or other risky behaviors, step back and ask yourself, ‘what pain or struggle is this person attempting to escape, make numb or just make go away altogether?’  If you see someone in an unhealthy relationship, don’t pass judgment by asking, ‘why don’t they just leave?’ Instead you might try asking yourself, ‘what is it that makes it seem impossible for them to leave?’ What toxins are clouding their vision to the point they see no way out?

Josefina’s story as told through her heartfelt poetry reminds us that we all come from somewhere. We all have our experiences, and they are real. Take time in this busy world to consider the plight of others and show empathy in their struggles. Despite our histories, our origins, our outward expressions, we all have something to offer and a reason to be. We can experience hardship and come out the other side stronger, more resilient and with a greater appreciation of what we have to lose.

This bright, funny and talented young lady has traveled a bumpy road, to say the least. Think about how her story, her experience can be of service to others. What can we learn from her when we listen to the poetry that she delivers from the heart? What can she teach other young children from similar backgrounds about resiliency, grit and hope for the future? She’s likely to help others like her a lot more than the privilege bestowed on this white gringa ever could. We just need to take the time to listen; to give youth a voice. We can do that by creating safe places for young people to express themselves freely with the realization that their lives have value. They have value, and they can be an incredible resource where a higher education and privilege can not.