Leteria: A Sneakers Success Story

 

Twelve years ago, my life changed. 

On the outside, I looked like a typical 16-year-old high school student. But, on the inside, I was secretly suffering. It felt like the world was against me. I was the victim of vicious rumors by students, and racist school administrators made it hard to show up every day.

But, everything changed when I joined Crittenton’s SNEAKERs program. I remember the exact activity we did that day. We each wrote our names on paper, and each person in our group went around and wrote positive affirmations about each other. In a group filled with all the personalities and attitudes of high school girls, this was epic. For the first time in my teenage years, I had a group of girls I could actually trust and speak freely about the many issues I was going through at the time.  For the first time in my life, I genuinely felt validated by my peers in a positive light. SNEAKERS stands for Self-efficacy, Nurturance, Expectations, Assertiveness, Knowledge, Empowerment, Responsibility, and Success, and throughout the school year, we learned about safe sex, building healthy relationships, and creating SMART goals. I still use those principles as a foundation today.

My experience in SNEAKERS stayed with me well into adulthood because it was the first time I had ever had an open and transparent relationship with an adult in my life, too.

I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my parents, family members, or any other adults at school, but Crittenton’s program leaders were the trusted adults in my life. It made all the difference. 

Crittenton’s program left such an impact on me that I began my career in youth development work after I graduated. Little did I know there was an entire field of adults dedicated to working with kids in a way that prioritizes social and emotional learning similar to SNEAKERS! 

Crittenton also piqued my interest in philanthropy after volunteering with them. As an alumna, I learned about other NGOs and their missions to serve youth through different mediums. I began interning, volunteering, and working part-time for three different Montgomery County nonprofits. Then, at 23, I started my professional career as a full-time Youth Development Program Coordinator and Training Coordinator for the Montgomery County Collaboration Council.

For five years, I researched and developed digital platforms for youth workers, coordinated over 200 public events and symposia, and supported the distribution and monitoring of over 1.5 million dollars to fund countywide youth development programs–including Crittenton. Talk about full circle! I am proud to be a Crittenton girl who is not only an alumna but someone who is equally invested in uplifting our youth of color through advocacy AND action.

Now, 12 years later, as an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Wife, and the proud mommy of two,  I am forever grateful for the impact Crittenton programs have had and continue to have on my life. Crittenton puts the WHOLE girl first so that the future woman can prosper and evolve.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

How Food and Housing Insecurity Imprints on Young Brains in D.C.

Ambar Castillo | Washington City Paper

Young D.C. residents who dealt with food and housing insecurity during the pandemic are still dealing with the consequences, even when more resources are available.

Long before the start of Fall 2021 classes were on anyone’s radar, caretakers, teachers, and other adults in children’s lives already had reason to fear that the kids were not alright. In D.C., food insecurity and housing instability, in addition to disruptions from their routines, the longtime isolation from peers, and the loss or illness of family members due to COVID-19, meant children’s mental health was in a precarious place during this formative time in their development. The return to in-person classes—and subsequent high number of quarantines due to potential COVID-19 exposure that has marked the start of schools—didn’t help the problem. 

Dr. Stacy Cary-Thompson, a D.C.-based pediatrician who has seen patients in person throughout the pandemic, points out that child abuse has surged during the pandemic, partly due to such overlapping issues of insecurity. Child abuse has a significant correlation with mental illness and is something she, as a pediatrician, constantly has on her mind.

“Parents and other caregivers are stressed during COVID,” she says. “Their support networks have shrunken, [and] … there have been changes to job and financial security. And children feel the effects of this. And so certainly there can be changes in family dynamics that the children witness, but also the pressure of the changes can manifest in a violent way.” 

Housing Instability: Not Just a Home Issue for Students

“D.C. is a very special place in the sense that … a lot of what’s happening in the streets and in the homes often pours into the schools,” Sam P. K. Collins of The Washington Informer said during a “World in Black” virtual roundtable discussion on education Wednesday. “When students come in … they’re suffering from homelessness, they’re suffering from mental health issues, things that manifest in low grades and low educational attainment.” This is particularly the case in communities located east of the Anacostia River, Collins points out. 

Housing insecurity isn’t just the typical picture we have of homelessness, Alexis Taylor, a teacher and contributing writer for the Baltimore Afro American, reminded folks at the same panel. 

“Homeless doesn’t always mean that you’re on the street,” she said. “Homeless can mean that you’re bouncing from couch to couch each night, homeless could mean that sometimes you’re sleeping with a cousin at their house, and then other times with a family friend, so it’s not stable housing.” 

Along with housing insecurity, food insecurity is one of the top factors that has contributed to a “twin pandemic” of COVID and systemic racism and inequality, both nationally and in the District. Caregivers at the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center reported that the number of children they see for “failure to thrive” due to malnutrition rose by 40 percent during the pandemic. New patients were in more critical condition than pre-pandemic and an unusual number of “graduated” patients were returning for the same issue. In D.C., the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2021 hunger report showed large spikes of food insecurity among Black and Latino households. 

Particularly early on in the pandemic, with supply chains disrupted and supermarket shelves left bare, many families couldn’t get the food they needed during this critical period in children’s growth. Many folks, having lost their job or left their job due to COVID-related health concerns, struggled to put food on the table. With schools closed, school meals were no longer a food source on which low-income families with children could rely. Some families lost their SNAP benefits once the pandemic boost in unemployment benefits kicked in. Now that some pandemic unemployment benefits have ended, the city has been pushing for folks to apply or reapply for resources like SNAP.

But even now, with food supplies mostly restored and social service programs and community support helping fill the gaps for some families, children impacted aren’t left unscarred: For developing brains, even short-lived moments of food deprivation can contribute to social-emotional and behavioral problems, apart from other ailments. A BMC study published in late March of 2714 low-income families nationwide found that food insecurity was highly associated with anxiety and depression during the pandemic—it posed three times the risk of developing mental illness as that of losing a job. And researchers found that SNAP, unemployment benefits, and stimulus payments weren’t associated with a reduced risk of mental illness. 

When schools closed last March, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington conducted a needs assessment of the roughly 500 sixth- to 12th-grade girls the organization serves annually, finding that these teens were already experiencing food insecurity. The nonprofit, which partners with schools to deliver social-emotional learning and academic success programs for teen girls, was one of various organizations that stepped in to help fill the gap, helping more than 450 families in the DMV secure food and other essentials at the peak of the pandemic. 

Black and Latina Teens Face Greater Mental Health Challenges During Pandemic

Ambar Castillo | Washington City Paper

When the District shut down last year, Black and Latina teens in D.C. had to step up as caregivers to younger siblings and family members. A seventh grade girl confided in staff at the nonprofit Crittenton Services of Greater Washington that she was taking care of four children at home, one of them an infant, while doing distance learning. A high school senior who had been caring for a sick elderly grandfather witnessed him die while she was taking care of him.

“That’s a lot of stress on our young girls at a time in their lives where children should just be children,” says Siobhan Davenport, CEO of CSGW and an author who writes about equity issues affecting girls and women of color.

On this last day of Suicide Awareness Month, it’s time to reckon with the intersections of race and gender that impact the mental health of Black and Latina girls in the District. Suspected suicide attempts by girls aged 12 to 17 increased by more than 50 percent in February to March 2021 compared to the same time in 2019 and surged by varying degrees at other times throughout the pandemic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that looked at emergency visits nationwide. By contrast, suspected suicide attempts that led to ER visits among boys in the same age group increased by only 3.7 percent compared to the same period two years ago. ​​Race compounds the gender disparity in suicide attempts and suicides that researchers have seen as a silent pandemic. While the number of suicide attempts among White adolescents nationwide dropped from 1991 to 2017, the number of Black children attempting suicide increased. Suicide death rates among Black girls in the U.S. aged 13 to 19 rose by 182 percent from 2001 to 2017.

Girls of color are more susceptible than their White peers to face adverse mental health effects from the stress of pandemic conditions in the home. They are more likely to lose a family member due to COVID-19: Black residents in the District and across the nation have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus, as have Latinx people, in ways that can’t be solely attributed to socioeconomic status or underlying health conditions. They are also more likely to get worn out and strain other aspects of their wellbeing due to caregiving responsibilities, the New York Times recently reported. A 2020 World Economic Forum report sheds light on how COVID further contributed to gender inequities in caregiving among women and girls

These COVID-era findings reflect more of what CSGW had found in their Declare Equity For Girls Report back in 2017. The nonprofit serves mostly young Black and Latina girls and their families, providing programs on life skills, healthy behaviors, and pregnancy prevention. CSGW had conducted focus groups with 71 Black and Latina girls from wards 5, 7, and 8, listening to these teens describe their experiences and expectations in and outside the home. Through listening sessions and surveys, together with national and global research on caregiving disparities, staff found that girls of color face more expectations for caregiving and other household duties than do both White girls and boys of color. Apart from suicidal ideation, staff found that 63 percent of girls in their program reported significant stress, 43 percent reported they are worried about their emotional health, and 50 percent reported feeling worried about their academic performance and the uncertainty of their future. 

Lessons from Crittenton on Helping Young Girls Manage their Mental Health

Davenport’s greatest hope is for greater mental health support that teens can access. 

“That everyone … who is in the ecosystem of our teen girls—be it your caregiver, your parents, our immediate family, your teachers, counselor, et cetera—that everyone creates that safe space,” she says.”So that they can … continue to thrive, knowing that they are being nurtured and cared for … being listened to.”

Davenport highlights a couple strategies that she as a mother and CSGW as a community have tried in order to support the mental health of young girls:

• Self-Care: Encouraging youth to identify and nurture their passions and hobbies. CSGW girls have taken up activities like cooking, arts and crafts painting, micro-entrepreneurship (developing lip glosses and body butters), and singing as ways to nurture themselves.

• Safe Community Involvement: A CSGW program leader facilitated an exercise where she invited her teens to make a Mother’s Day gift while socially distanced. “It was just a meaningful exercise to show the girls that regardless of how they’re feeling,” she says. “[Even though] we all can feel a bit helpless during these times, there are things that we can do to bring joy not just to ourselves, but to those around us.”

Boys Need Help, Too

While girls are disproportionately impacted by gender-based inequities that contribute to mental illness, boys also need support.

“As a community, we need to allow boys the safe space to share how they’re feeling during these times but also outside of these times,” Davenport says.

Davenport says she is always doing check-ins with her son. “There are times when I get one-word answers and then there’s times when he just opens up a floodgate. And I’ve learned to be patient either way,” she says. “So the one-word answer pretty much means that now it’s not a good time to talk. But he does get around to sharing with me how he’s feeling throughout all of this.”

While city officials seek to make schools as back to normal as possible amid a heightened outcry for greater COVID safety precautions from parents, teachers, and advocates, normalcy may not cut it for the other pandemic facing teens and girls of color. 

“Normal wasn’t always so good for everyone,” says Davenport of the mental health crisis. “And it certainly wasn’t always good for children and the teen girls that we serve from vulnerable backgrounds.” 

 

‘No Time to Be a Child’

— A poem by Azariah Baker, a high school student in Chicago
 
 
For the past year and a half, Jamese Logan, a 15-year-old in Lanham, Md., found herself looking after four children. Her aunt died of cancer in May, leaving her children, the youngest just over a year old, in the care of Jamese’s mother.
 
And when Jamese’s mother goes to work, it has been Jamese’s responsibility to look after her cousins, juggling their needs with her homework and virtual school.
 
For Yanica Mejias, a 17-year-old in Gaithersburg, Md., these last 12 months have been a huge financial strain. Her parents divorced in November, and Yanica, her mother and her 14-year-old sister moved into the basement of her aunt’s house. Yanica took on extra shifts at a burger restaurant to help keep the family afloat.
 
“It was kind of like we were starting from zero,” she said.
 
And Azariah Baker, a 15-year-old in Chicago, has been caring for her 70-year-old grandmother, who had a stroke at the start of 2020, as well as her 2-year-old niece. Her grandmother is the legal guardian for Azariah and her niece but since the stroke, which left her extremely fatigued with blurry vision and headaches, Azariah has done the heavy lifting at home. She would wake up every day at 7 a.m., make them all breakfast, then log on for virtual school at 8 a.m.
 
When school was out, she’d go to work at a grocery store. Then she’d come back home and cook dinner. She often felt overwhelmed. “I remember one night, I was making dinner and I was having a panic attack. I was crying, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my heart was racing,” Azariah said.
 
“But then my alarm went off for something in the oven,” she said, and she put her own needs aside.
 
These three stories encapsulate the ways in which the pandemic has affected the lives of young women of color across the United States, even if they weren’t directly touched by the coronavirus. Black and Hispanic youth were more likely to have lost a parent or a family member to Covid-19. They have fallen further behind in school than their white counterparts, and they had far higher unemployment rates last year than older adults and young white women, even during the summer, when youth employment typically goes up. Some of those who held on to or found new jobs became crucial breadwinners because their family members were more likely to have been laid off.
 
Black and Hispanic teenage girls were also more likely than white girls and their male counterparts to shoulder care responsibilities at home, according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, they were leading racial justice demonstrations across the country, most notably last summer, channeling their energy into confronting and changing systemic inequities.
 
“Black girls were on the front lines of racial justice movements, they were essential workers and they were primary caregivers,” said Scheherazade Tillet, a founder and the executive director of A Long Walk Home, an organization that empowers Black girls in Chicago. “There’s no other group that was all three of those things at once.”
 
All of this has taken a psychological toll. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp spike in emergency room visits after suspected suicide attempts by girls ages 12 to 17 in the first months of 2021 compared with 2019. This is possibly because of “more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic,” the report said, though the study didn’t break down the data by race.
 
A survey of over 2,000 young people, published in June by the nonprofit organization America’s Promise Alliance, found that 78 percent of girls ages 13 to 19 reported in the past 30 days at least one sign of decreased mental health, such as feeling distressed or being unable to sleep, compared with 65 percent of boys. A Long Walk Home found in a survey of about 30 girls that nearly 70 percent reported increased anxiety and an inability to sleep in the last year. Twenty-seven percent reported having suicidal thoughts. Crittenton Services, an organization based in Washington, D.C., and Maryland that supports girls of color, found that out of the nearly 400 girls in its network, 63 percent felt stressed, and half had trouble sleeping, according to an internal survey that was shared with The Times.
 
“This is the crisis that they have come through,” Ms. Tillet said. “So what systems are in place now to support their emotional and psychological needs?”
 
Behind the numbers are lives upended, dreams shattered, the burden of suddenly becoming a caregiver or a provider. A Long Walk Home found that many girls in its network felt like they’d lost their childhood, or as Azariah put it: “There was no time to be a child.” And as schools and some workplaces open their doors again, the burdens for these young women are still very present. They may even be greater.
 
But these are also tales of resilience, of girls who become leaders in their communities and rise to the occasion for their families, with creativity and determination buoying them through crises and chaos.
 

Jamese Logan

A 15-year-old student at DuVal High School in Maryland who takes care of four children under 10.

 

Photographs by Erin Schaff/The New York Times

 
Jamese’s aunt learned she had Stage 4 brain cancer in February, and she died in May. Since then, Jamese’s focus has been on taking care of her cousins. Child care for four children was impossible to find and would have been too expensive for Jamese’s mother, anyway.
 
For months, Jamese spent most of her days with her brother, 14, and cousins at home. The six of them made TikTok videos, played games and danced in the living room. Every now and then, she would treat them to pancakes made with a recipe she learned from her grandmother. She felt responsible for the happiness of everyone else around her.
 
“I wanted to make sure everybody wasn’t sad or angry,” she said. “I wanted to stay energetic and smiling even though my aunt had just passed.”
 
At the same time, Jamese found it increasingly difficult to focus on schoolwork, and the spotty Wi-Fi at home didn’t help. Her grades started falling.
 
In May, she reached out to Kahlil Kuykendall, a program director at the Crittenton support organization, for emotional help. Ms. Kuykendall, whom some girls call “Mama Kahlil,” made frequent visits to Jamese’s home to check in on her. She also arranged to send Jamese’s family food and money for her aunt’s funeral.
 
Eventually, with the help of her teachers and Ms. Kuykendall, Jamese’s grades inched back up, and she spent the summer getting her reading score to where it needed to be.
 
Going back to school in person this month has been “rocky,” she said in a recent phone interview. In the background, her cousins were screaming and crying for lunch. The chicken sandwiches she had made were still cooling in the oven.
 
Normalcy, Jamese said, would take a little bit of time. “I’m trying to figure out a way to balance it all out,” she added.
 

Yanica Mejias

A 17-year-old at Gaithersburg High School in Maryland who feels the need to support her family financially.

 
Photographs by Erin Schaff/The New York Times
 
 
Yanica used to live in a house where she and her sister had separate rooms. But almost overnight, her parents’ divorce forced Yanica, her mother and her sister all into one room, in the basement of an aunt’s house. Yanica’s job at a local burger drive-through that was once just for “fun” became a lifeline. She now pays her own phone bills and chips in for the car insurance.
 
The coronavirus pandemic derailed Yanica’s plan to take a course last year to become a certified nursing assistant, so she did it this summer, virtually. Her dream to go to the University of Miami after high school is dependent on how financially stable her family will be at the end of the year — otherwise, Yanica said, she’ll take a two-year course at a community college. 
 
At the burger place, Checkers, Yanica was promoted from cashier to shift manager, taking on more responsibility when the business couldn’t retain workers or lure them back. She made sure that everyone was wearing a uniform and that the store was cleaned. She closed at the end of the day, counting the money and putting it into the system.
 
Between schoolwork, her job, nurse assistant training and her parents’ divorce, she had less and less time to spend with her friends. When she looked around, they seemed to have had an enjoyable summer break with their families.
 
“Sometimes my sister would ask me if I wanted to go to the pool with her,” Yanica said. “But usually when she wanted to go, I had to work.”
 
Yanica recently graduated from her nurse assistant program. She didn’t tell many people in her family because, she said, the ceremony was virtual and it felt underwhelming. “I kind of just kept it to myself,” she said. She didn’t even dress up for the virtual ceremony, or take screenshots of the event.
 
Other matters demanded her attention the week she graduated: School reopened in person, and her family moved again. She quit her job because of scheduling issues, but now she’s doing a paid internship at a day care.
 

Azariah Baker

A 15-year-old at George Westinghouse College Preparatory in Chicago who juggles school with caring for her grandmother and toddler niece.

Last summer, Azariah felt compelled to participate in the racial justice movement that was sweeping the country. In an after-school program, she and her friends brainstormed practical solutions to systemic inequality and realized that the recent closure of a local grocery store during the pandemic meant that their neighborhood had limited access to fresh food.
 
With the help of a nonprofit organization, the 12 high schoolers tore down an abandoned liquor store and opened a fresh produce market, sourcing fruit, other food and flowers from local suppliers across Chicago. Azariah and the other students work there three times a week.
 
To balance it all, Azariah multitasked, helping customers one minute, finishing her homework in the corner the next. “I’d have my computer on the counter while I’m setting up a flower station,” she said. Her peers started calling her “Miss President” because of how much she could handle with grace. Azariah was also doing interviews when the story of the new grocery store got picked up by local and national press.
 
But behind the scenes, she was growing worn out, particularly with virtual school and the caregiving — for her grandmother, whom she calls “mom,” and her niece — at home.
 
“The reality is that a large portion of the time, I’m not OK,” she said. “There’s a part of me that wants to have fun and be a kid and take up space.”
 
Azariah is now back in school in person. As great as it has been to see friends again, the transition has been stressful. “I live 20 miles from my school,” she said, and the commute means she has to be up by 5 a.m. at the latest. “I am also overwhelmed trying to keep up with schoolwork, go to work after, and I worry about my mom’s physical and mental health.”
 
In the slivers of time that Azariah had to herself, she wrote a poem:
 

I would like to write a poem to honor my girl/friends

to the ones who pushed pins into their skin

and the ones who were forced under someone else’s

to the ones who smile in the midst of a battle zone

and to those who carry the battle zones in their hearts

to the ones that always look for something to smile about

with their broken eyes and

eyes that don’t grow weary and

eyes afraid to close

This is a poem to the black girls who have cried about being a black girl

Who filled their bodies with hate and envy and disgust

Hate, and envy, and disgust

Hate, and envy, and disgust

Breathe.

Black girls deserve to be children.
 

See original article

Alisha Haridasani Gupta is a gender reporter covering politics, business, technology, health and culture through the gender lens. She writes the In Her Words newsletter. @alisha__g

Social Justice in the Classroom: How a Restorative Justice Framework Can Prepare Teachers and Staff for the New School Year

Siobhan Davenportl | SDavenport@crittentonservices.org

I was recently appointed to the Montgomery County Taskforce on School Safety. Alongside Councilmembers Will Jawando, Craig Rice, and other community leaders and students, we will craft a roadmap to police-free schools and safer learning environments for youth. 

This issue is personal to me. Not only am I the parent of two teenagers, but Crittenton works with Black and Brown teen girls who live in communities with the highest incidents of poverty and violence in our region. In our Declare Equity for Girls Report—a landmark study that revealed the obstacles girls face in achieving education equity, girls shared that their school environments were not conducive to learning and identified persistent bullying and difficult interactions with teachers and staff as some of their primary concerns. 

Safe and supportive environments, whether at school, home, or in the community, are essential to unlocking the potential of our youth—no matter their backgrounds. Here’s how to use a Restorative Justice Framework to create safer schools and communities for our teen girls as they prepare for the new school year. 

Relationship

“Bad vibes everywhere! Negativity is everywhere in the school building. Nobody can get along. It’s always something with somebody.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Restorative justice seeks to repair damaged relationships. Before any learning takes place, administrators must first acknowledge that the relationship between staff and students is damaged. Prior to the pandemic, the trauma that some youth experienced in the community manifested as difficult behavior in the classroom. Teachers and staff bore the brunt of these interactions on top of demands to perform at underfunded schools in challenged communities. The result was despair. Now, after a global pandemic and an emotionally exhausting school year, we should expect students and staff will bring some historical trauma and current frustrations into the classroom too.  

Respect

“The teachers are always talking about ‘you have to respect them.’ You have to respect me if you want respect.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Trauma-informed care starts with creating a safe space. Safe spaces create cultures of mutual respect. Administrators can mend their relationships with students by establishing new dynamics with each other. Acknowledging the leadership of another person is crucial to fostering respect. At Crittenton, we position our program coordinators to become the trusted and caring adult who is a partner in a girl’s success. They do this by seeing and respecting teens as experts in their lives. Girls are then excited to be a part of Crittenton’s sacred sisterhood and activate their inner leader. A similar experience can be replicated in the classroom. The most successful educators create safe environments to learn and recognize the leadership of teens to interpret or reimagine information to deepen their learning. 

Responsibility

“I don’t have any negative feelings towards my school because after a while, you just zone out.”– A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Restorative Justice Framework contends that everyone has a personal responsibility to restore the relationship and create a better future.  We open every cohort with a group-building activity. A simple yet effective activity is Group Agreements. Group Agreements maintain the structure and order of the group and also encourage personal responsibility to the cohort. Teachers can interpret this exercise for the classroom. Create space for students to write their desired rules, needs, and expectations of the classroom to do their best learning. Once the class has created a comprehensive list, give students an opportunity to decide agreements are necessary. Also, give the class a chance to suggest consequences for breaking the agreements. Simple exercises like this give teens a chance to express themselves, any hidden needs, and also feel ownership and autonomy in their education. 

Repair

“The drama stops people from learning.”– A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Toxic learning environments shut students down. Administrators, teachers, and school staff must work to repair the culture of negative schools to reignite the desire to learn. Restorative justice acknowledges that all damage cannot be repaired; however, change must begin immediately and fully for parties to gain their self-respect and respect for others. Adults have control over the following: providing students with adequate school supplies and better-funded schools, ensuring staff is trained in culturally competent teaching practices and undergoing unconscious bias and gender-bias training which impacts academic performance. I also recommend increasing the number of mental health specialists and trauma-informed counselors to show commitment to providing the proper care and resources needed to meet the needs of students and to transform the school culture.

Reintegration

“One of the positive things about my school is some of my teachers’ support and give tough love on the bad days.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

The restorative justice process ends with reintegration. Parties must contribute to and collaborate on a new path forward. Teens will need time to reintegrate into structured learning and social environments with school staff and their friends. Administrators cannot assume that things can or should go back to normal. In DC alone, more than 40% of students are considered at-risk youth. Additionally, our internal needs assessment revealed that 22% of girls took on additional caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. Returning to normal is not an option. The old normal resulted in poor academic achievement, discriminatory discipline, and ultimately the push out of Black and brown girls in schools. The new normal must be better for Black and brown teen girls and we must engage them in developing solutions that heal their trauma and match their current and future needs.

 

Teens Are Experts of Their Own Lives: A Podcast

President & CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, Siobhan Davenport, joins Daniel Bauer from Better Leaders, Better schools to share her insight into why teens are experts of their own lives. Listen in as they discuss:

  • Understanding barriers that girls face and teaching action advocacy. 
  • Creating safe space and suspending judgment as an intentional move as an organization.
  • The key to building world class culture with one question.
  • Reflection for leaders to help navigate and engage at school and at home.
  • Serve the whole child by suspending judgment with specific staff training. 
  • Evolution of a sacred sister circle-hood. “Meet girls where they are, but don’t let them stay there.”

“Let Teens Lead. As adults, we have wonderful experiences in our lives and we get to a point where we say, ‘Do this, do that, do the other.’ We forget that teens are the experts in their own lives. They come with so much experience and they know what they need, and we can be a support to them and get the services that they need.” – Siobhan Davenport

See original article

 

How To Prioritize Your Teen’s Mental Health And Wellbeing.

As a mother to a teen girl and a leader of a nonprofit that’s helping our Black and brown girls navigate this pandemic, I see daily the importance of prioritizing the emotional wellness of our children. As parents, we must provide the tools, community, and support systems to help maintain our teen’s mental health and wellbeing for them to overcome challenges and thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we’ve all been facing, and teens are feeling the fear, strain of uncertainty, and the stress of competing at school, work, and extracurricular demands more than ever.

J.R. Celeste, founder & publisher of Successful Black Parenting Magazine, interviews Siobhan Davenport about the mental health of our Black girls and the effects of the pandemic.
 

“When You make space for teens to self-advocate for their personal needs, You create an environment where they feel safe and confident enough to use their voices and articulate their desires.”


They need help, but sometimes youth lack the skills and opportunity to communicate their needs. You can start by creating space for this at home. In recognition of Minority Mental Health and Awareness Month, here are some tips and best practices for parents to continue supporting teens’ mental health and wellness.

Foster a safe, non-judgmental space that inspires your teen to share what’s on their minds

Our Black and brown children are often looking for an opening to express themselves. You must keep at the forefront of your mind that youth voices matter and their experiences are real and valid. If you create an environment where kids believe their perspectives don’t matter, they may find it difficult to share their deepest concerns with you. You have to model for your children that you care, and show them what active and respectful listening looks like in conversation. They can carry these skills from home to school.

You can create the opening by asking specific questions about their day (for example: “How was class today with teacher X?” versus “How was school today?”). Asking more specific questions can help get to the core of what may be pressing or heavy for your child at that moment. Welcome and encourage frequent dialogue for your teen to express themselves to you. The more you keep an open mind, the more it builds a trusting relationship.

Encourage your teens to focus on the things they can control, even when life feels unpredictable

Help your children to identify what they can control in their lives. This includes helping them understand how to break down larger blocks of homework into smaller achievable goals, structuring manageable schedules, especially if they are engaged in multiple school and extracurricular activities. It can be simply directing them to keep their personal spaces in the home organized, as well as helping them ensure that family spaces and tasks are organized as well.

Show them that we also have control of taking care of our minds and bodies. This can be as simple as eating the healthiest food available, incorporating physical activity into each day, and getting consistent sleep — specifically, eight to ten hours of sleepper night as experts have long recommended for teens. Integrating routines will provide consistency to help keep teens’ mental health in check. These organizational skills not only provide structure but also help alleviate stress to maintain your teen’s mental health and wellbeing. It prevents young people from becoming overwhelmed when all of their “to-dos” come at them at once.

Encourage teens to practice self-advocacy and ask for help from adults and their peers

You can aid your teen in developing the skills and confidence to advocate for themself at school, out in the world, and at home. Being able to express their needs and desires is essential to them feeling valued. Asking questions and creating space for teens to first identify and then share what they are feeling, or what they need, helps them to feel as if they have a little more control over their experiences. I also have to spend more time listening to see how my daughter is working through challenges, instead of being so quick to offer solutions.

When you make space for teens to self-advocate for their personal needs, you create an environment where they feel safe and confident enough to use their voices and articulate their desires. In turn, this empowers a confident parent, equipped with the skills to be in dialogue with their children while honoring youth voices.

It’s been a tumultuous 16 months, and we need to make sure that our kids can recover. As a parent, it is imperative to create adequate spaces and support systems for your teen’s mental health and wellbeing. You can start some of the work to create spaces at home, but you’ll need every participant in your children’s learning ecosystem — schools, summer learning programs, youth-serving organizations, parents, families, and communities — to play a part in the recovery process so your children can reach their full potential.

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Crittenton girls host talk for teens on COVID-19 recovery

More than 100 teen girls from Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County school districts gathered on April 22 at 6 p.m. for a virtual community conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on the area’s youth.

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (CSGW) hosted students and community members for the nonprofit’s annual High Tea. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was virtual and the conversation centered on empowering young women through the effects of COVID-19.

Siobhan Davenport, president and CEO of CSGW, was one of the adults who participated in the High Tea. Davenport told the AFRO that COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges that students of Crittenton already face.

“We as an organization have many conversations on how the inequity in healthcare, and housing and in education have risen to the top because of the pandemic,” Davenport said.

According to a CSGW news release, a February needs assessment showed that out of nearly 400 students surveyed, 63 percent of the students feel more stressed than usual and 43 percent are worried about their futures.

The event included a main session that was hosted by NBC reporter Juliana Valencia and featured appearances by the Mayor of Somerset, Md., Jeffrey Slavin, and Crittenton Honoree Catherine Leggett.

After the main session, the teen girl participants were placed into several small groups or breakout rooms where they had an open dialogue with one another surrounding the pre-chosen theme: “My Voice Matters.”

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How one nonprofit helps at-risk teenage girls in DC and Montgomery Co.

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington aims to help hundreds of at-risk teenage girls across D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland, every year — even during the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for people from all walks of life and at-risk youth are no exception.

“The pandemic has certainly impacted the young ladies that we serve,” said Siobhan Davenport, CEO of Crittenton Services.

The 133-year-old nonprofit works with 500 to 600 teens from sixth through 12th grade every year.

“Our teen girls experience economic insecurity, racial disparities (and) gender inequities. Our families experience housing insecurity and food insecurity,” she said.

Davenport added that the pandemic has “increased those challenges, exponentially” for those served by Crittenton Services.

One program the nonprofit offers, called Goal Setting Girls, is a 28-week program focusing on social and emotional learning for sixth- and seventh-grade girls from lower-income families.

There is also a 26-week program for girls in high school that provides information “on healthy relationships, careers, post-secondary education, nutrition and fitness and reproductive health and sexuality,” according to the group’s website.

Another program is designed for “young women who are pregnant or parenting.”

“We also have a policy-advocacy arm called ‘Declare Equity for Girls,’ which is a girl-led project where our young ladies are advocating for themselves and for their communities,” Davenport said.

She said Crittenton Services connects with students through school partnerships, and girls who join any of its programs do so voluntarily.

“Our greatest ambassadors are the girls themselves. We have girls who have recommended additional family members, best friends … because what they’re getting from the program is so important to them.”

Davenport added that alumnae have gone on to careers in health care, higher education, the military and politics.

The group’s annual ‘High Tea’ was held virtually this year, on April 22, due to the pandemic.

Crittenton Services said it offers an opportunity for its teens to share “their views on issues impacting their lives and showcase their leadership and advocacy skills” with community leaders.

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Girls of Color Held Their Communities Together During the COVID-19 Crisis

One year ago, I posted the question, “Who does home care fall on?” I warned that COVID-19’s abrupt impact on home dynamics was falling disproportionately on girls, and particularly, girls of color in vulnerable communities. 

Now, after one year in the shadow of a virus, the data is in: the pandemic has had a devastating toll on women. Some experts have referred to this as the “Care Economy,” “Pink pandemic” and  “She-cession” because women have borne the brunt of the crisis by nearly every measure. The gender inequities that existed prior to the pandemic have worsened. 

Our teens were not immune to the impacts of the virus either.

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How Philanthropy Can Recover Right from COVID-19

As the daughter of teen parents, I know a thing or 2 about defying conventional expectations for your life. Individual willpower is critical. However, beating the odds is nearly impossible without an environment conducive to success. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described in many ways, including “The Great Exposer,” for revealing the broken systems, misplaced priorities, and neglected communities in our society. Experts now warn against a K-shaped recovery that will exacerbate the disparities that previously existed.

I’m encouraged by the philanthropic community’s efforts to combat the impacts of the virus and support issues like racial justice and social equity. But, as a Black woman and nonprofit executive, I’ve never been more concerned that funders will inadvertently accelerate the K-shaped recovery by not evolving to meet the moment.

In a post-COVID world, funders have a unique opportunity to recreate the environments conducive to success by shifting how they do philanthropy.

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An internship during the coronavirus pandemic is a crash course in adaptability

BY SARAH FIELDING

April 22, 2020 5:45 PM EDT

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Clarissa Garcia began her internship before COVID-19 hit. Her job at WishSlate Inc., an e-commerce app, was focused on PR and media relations. Unsurprisingly, her tasks quickly rendered incredibly difficult due to the immense focus that the media is having on the virus.

“It’s been pretty frustrating for me,” she considers. “I’ve had no success so far”. But while difficult, this unique situation is giving her an unexpected insight in navigating a start-up during a crisis. Tuning into weekly Skype meetings with the company’s CEO has kept her well informed as to how the company is navigating everything. “I find it helpful, and it keeps me and the rest of the interns engaged,” she says.

Interns like Garcia are used to work hard to prove themselves in temporary positions, but doing that remotely—and in the middle of a global health crisis—definitely add to the challenge. Some of the high schoolers, higher education students, and those who are in full-time, post graduation internships during the school year are lucky enough to make the remote transition. Others are even more fortunate, with their employers offering full-time positions upon graduation. But many are completely left without the experience—and sometimes money—they counted on having.

Laina Milazzo, a second year law student at Touro Law Center, was working as a legal extern at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in Massachussetts, in the district court bureau. Once COVID-19 hit, all externs were told not to return until further notice. The next day, the courts closed indefinitely. “Since it was an externship we get credit for, they needed to find somewhere for us in order to actually receive credit for all the work we had already done,” says Milazzo. 

She was reassigned to the appeals bureau, which allowed her to do research assignments from home. And she’s adapted: “The research is so different from the work I was doing in the district court bureau,” she says. “But now I have hands-on experience in two totally different bureaus—and I think overall it’ll help my career.” 

Some of the students in Milazzo’s class weren’t able to switch to another department. Although they won’t substitute the hands-on experience of an actual internship, their professor is creating new assignments for them to do in order to still gain knowledge and receive credit for the time they put in already.

Zaria Wilson faced a similar disappointment. A graduating high school senior, she’s been interning at the National Institutes of Health in the Department of Cellular Development and Neurobiology since last June. With her work taking place completely within a lab, the internship had no way to translate to remote work. Plus, her schedule was tied to her Maryland-based school, so the day it shut down, the internship ended.

While Wilson is fortunate to have interned since June, she’s being proactive to make up for the last few months at the lab that she’s losing. “I’ve been doing my best to make up for the last months of the internship by doing some online courses and staying aware of the science field and biology.”

However optimistic, adapting may seem too far-fetched for some. Wilson is worried about how losing her internship stipend will affect her paying for college. While keeping up with her reading and online courses, she’s applying for scholarships. And Sammy, who had graduated from high school last June, wouldn’t be starting college until the fall.

He had been working as an intern in an investing firm in New York City for less than a month when his office was suddenly shut down due to COVID.19. Since then, Sammy hasn’t worked for them, or for anyone else, for that matter.

“I know that people like me (interns) are going to be amongst the last to be hired back,” he fears. “I hope that my school will be well equipped to deal with helping us find opportunities. There aren’t really many for me to pursue right now.”

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