Sex at a young age, troubles in school, gang-related activity, remaining in abusive relationships, wearing provocative clothing, physical and emotional violence – versus – excellent academic achievement, outstanding athleticism, participation in extra- curricular activities and a commitment to community involvement. What can we do to transform the lives of young women from the first scenario to the latter? And how can each of us make a difference? Can you as an adult step into the world of a young woman and work diligently to empower her to become what she is capable of becoming? How can someone like you possibly help the young women with whom you come into contact? These are all important questions, and I would like to share some of my thoughts.
In our fast-paced society where most parents work and have too little time with their children-certainly much less time than in the past-it is extraordinarily important to find time to encourage and empower young women. Young people strive to achieve a sense of belonging-often in a group or clique of one sort or another-where they can explore and define their identities. In a world where adults are often less involved in the lives of young people, we need to step up and take responsibility for helping them learn about themselves and how to make their way in the world. If we do not, we leave it up to our modern mass media to dictate our children’s view of the world, themselves, and thus, their very future.
Mass media does not, and perhaps cannot, teach many things. It certainly does little to teach self worth. It does not teach initiative. It does not teach young women even simple things like how to eat healthfully, the value of dressing with class or where to go to grow and learn about themselves and other successful young women.
Young women need you to help them learn and grow. Programs such as Girls Unlimited, athletic activities and extracurricular academic programs all provide positive community-based youth support systems. Many young women do not know about these programs, nor do they think they could ever be a part of them. This is where excellent women mentors can play a key role in the development of young women. Listen, listen, listen to what they are working through. Think about how you can connect them to others and how you can help them grow in a positive way. It simply does not matter if a young woman is your child or not – help them – they will thank you immensely later.
I will never forget the first woman who told me that I could succeed, and then stuck by my side through both good and not-so-good days. No matter when I went to her, she listened to and encouraged me all the same. She never asked, in word or deed, how I was going to help her. She focused only on how she could help me. To this day I think of her, I call her and I send her cards to let her know how much I appreciate everything she did for me. I encourage you to take a moment to think about the first woman who empowered you.
Without mentorship, it is far too easy for young people to be drawn into negative cliques or groups, never living up to their full potential. Because we know that young women have a strong need for affiliation in peer groups, it is absolutely essential that we enable them to connect to positive, supportive environments where they can explore who they are and what they wish to become. Ultimately, we must provide the settings and tools to enable them to realize all the wonderful opportunities that are out there just waiting.
I firmly believe that we should strive to create a world in which any child or young adult – regardless of origin – is not impeded from achieving his or her full potential. Obviously, the desires and wishes of the young are, in large part, directly influenced by those surrounding them. Given the opportunity to be involved in programs that enable them to see their own positive potential, many young women will begin to realize that the world holds possibilities of which they never dreamt. The ability to see what they are capable of in the wider world has to begin somewhere. Strong female mentorship is the key to helping young women get a fast start in the race of life.
I ask you now – who are you mentoring – how are you Lending a Hand and Lifting a Soul?
Here are some suggestions for how you can Lend a Hand to young women:
- Find someone you work with to listen to and encourage – listen for how you can help her and offer your assistance – do it without any expectations of something in return – just help her.
- Go to an organization whose mission is to empower young women and offer your time.
- When you see that a young woman is having difficulty, ask yourself how you can be of assistance – and offer to help.
- Go to your local University/College’s CareerCenter and offer your time to mentor a student.
If you would like more information on how to become an outstanding mentor – or – if you would like to begin receiving my e-newsletter, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org