What are Girls Saying
Past participants of the YSC and YWHC share their stories
Shirelle Lowe, 17
I grew up in Pacifica, a community with a staggeringly high suicide rate. By the eighth grade, three out of twelve students in my class contemplated suicide and practiced self-mutilation. This desensitized me to suicide and made me feel powerless and pessimistic.
The YWHC changed my whole outlook on my life. The speakers had a particularly profound impact on me. They showed me that I could speak with a small voice and still be heard. I left the conference walking in bold strides, exuberated by my newfound sense of self-worth, confidence, courage, curiosity and adventure. I joined the YSC to help determine the content of the conference; including the theme, workshops, speakers and entertainment. I was inspired knowing that my ideas were put into action.
As a result of the YSC, I started the Suicide Prevention and Peer Mediator Program at my school. I plan to use my skills to help my community and peers and to create a safe environment for students seeking suicide prevention services
Jennifer Baumstein, 18
I left the 2003 YWHC with a feeling that wasn't exactly tangible, but that would be carried with me at all times. I experienced a collective empowerment and a sense of the feminine that does not translate into being "girly." I attended a workshop on family communication and another on suicide prevention. These workshops inspired me to join the YSC. I wanted to plan the next conference; but more importantly, I wanted to educate other young women about salient health topics and encourage them to lead healthy lives.
As a result of the YSC, I now see myself as a leader among my peers. I arranged a blood drive at my school and I completed an internship at the UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women's Health. The YSC taught me to better organized, more driven to accomplish my goals, and it opened my eyes to the health care field. I am going to college next year, where I will take these skills and apply them to school and my future
Mily Pisani, 16
For many years I wore a mask. On the outside I seemed to be a happy healthy teen, but inside I often felt lost and alone. My mother is Mexican and my father is French. I was born in Mexico and lived there for 11 years. My family now lives in the Bay Area where I attend a French school. My peers made me feel I was too American to be part of the French crowd, and too French to be part of the American crowd. When I went to Mexico to visit, I did not fit in there either. I was too French and American to be Mexican. I was confused and felt like I was the only person who did not know who she was and where she belonged.
At the YWHC, I attended a workshop on "Race and Culture" and met girls who struggled with similar feelings of confusion about their cultural identity. Each of us shared our stories and we found strength and comfort in each other. I realized I was not alone, and for the first time I felt proud to be a bicultural young woman. I wanted to join the YSC so that I could give other girls the gifts that the YWHC gave me - the experience of feeling confident, happy, and alive.
Sarah Adler-Milstein, 18
The opportunity to be on the YSC was a life changing experience. I got to be part of planning an empowering conference for my peers, and I was given the information, tools and inspiration to become an activist.
I had the opportunity to turn my passion into action through Senator Speier's Legislative Committee. I learned about the workings of the state legislature as I helped to draft and lobby a piece of legislation which addressed the issue of dating violence. I attended the National Summit for Young Women's Health in Washington D.C. and met with representatives from all 50 states to prepare an action plan to improve an aspect of young women's health. As a result, I developed a workshop on body image and the media, which I taught to middle school students. Following the National Summit, I worked on the Western State Regional Summit and organized a panel of young women health activists.
Yensing Sihapanya, 18
The YWHC helped me to realize the importance of creating safe places for young women where we can be authentic and openly discuss the issues that affect us every day, especially those that ordinarily make us anxious and insecure. I discovered that although we each have unique issues as young women, we all need to know how and where to access people in the community who can support us.
Before the YWHC I questioned whether I would be able to protect myself if I was attacked. As a member of the YSC, I accepted an opportunity offered to learn self-defense and how to spot potentially dangerous situations and prevent them from becoming violent. I also learned that as young women, we are entitled to feel safe and to be ourselves without fear of judgment or harassment. The YWHC taught me these should not be privileges and that in my lifetime we can make them rights.
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