Why I Choose to Promote the Dove Self-Esteem Project – From a Male Perspective

Written by Brett Delaney, Middle School Health Teacher, Coach and Dove Self-Esteem Project Cadre Trainer with Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Partner

I am a father to three young girls.  I coach softball and teach middle school students.  Self-esteem, body image, and body confidence are topics addressed on a daily basis with all the women and girls in my life.  What I have noticed in any conversation about self-esteem everyone, including my students, related it back to women and girls.  As I mentioned, I teach middle school students and yes, I do see girls struggle with issues regarding self-esteem and body confidence - but  I see boys struggle with this issue just as much.  I knew I needed to set out and find a way to help my students realize that self-esteem and confidence are important for everyone.

So, what is one reason I got involved as a Dove Self-Esteem cadre member?  The weight room!  In a 2013 Psychology Today article, Drexler (1) cites statistics relative to my classroom experiences. First, 40 percent of boys in middle and high school exercise regularly.  Second, boys overwhelmingly reported feeling pressured to fit a certain physical ideal of lean, muscular, and broad in the shoulders. The weight room can be a very daunting place for anyone of any physical ability.  It can be even more daunting for an 8th grade boy (in a class of 8th and 9th grade peers) who has not gone through the growing process yet, as some of his peers have. I’ve seen one of my student go through this. He came into strength class at a level he wasn’t satisfied with. He got really frustrated with his numbers and the appearance that he was “weak” compared to his peers.  He would not engage in group activities/ interact with peers, would be last to show up for class and the first to leave, his head dropped and shoulders rounded.  He also was not a member of any extracurricular activities. It was easy to see how comparing himself to others shaped his self-perception and ultimately held him back.    

Students in today’s society are influenced by so many internal and external factors.  These external factors, out of the control of the teenager, have influenced this opinion of self.  With a lot of these factors coming from different social media outlets where they can only post a picture or 140 characters, my students choose not to talk about their feelings and beliefs of themselves but rather post their negative thoughts.  My student from the weight room, I found, was posting things about his perceived strength level on social media.  Just one of many ways I have noticed middle school boys being critical of themselves. 

When teaching my unit on body confidence/body image, the biggest hurdle I have to overcome is self-talk.  Typically, teenagers are wired to think they are the only ones dealing with a given situation.  What they do not always realize is the person sitting next to them or two rows back is dealing with the same situation.  We start every year in health class with our social-emotional unit not because it is easy (it’s actually the most challenging), but because it sets the tone for the students to begin getting to know themselves and others, so the rest of the year they can find various ways to relate the content back to helping them grow as young men and women. The Dove Self-Esteem Project Confident Me! lessons helped with this problem of negative self-talk.  The discussion prompts led to great conversations about self-esteem and appearance ideals that were happening at my school.  Students were challenged with this curriculum to begin looking at themselves and stop comparing to others. 

Boys are going to continue to be pressured by different outlets which lead to comparison about self and possible negative self-talk characteristics becoming more evident.  From the Dove Self-Esteem Confident Me! lessons done in class, the discussion that ensued about negative self-talk and realizing times it happens clicked in my weight room student’s head.  He came to me after a lifting session and said he could tell he was having negative self-talk but was starting to use strategies his peers gave him from health class to help overcome those negative thoughts.  This was something done by the students themselves and not me! How powerful is that!  That is why I do what I do and help promote this great free curriculum anyway I can.  

Oh, the weight room student…  When he left as a 9th grader, he was standing tall, looking teachers and students in the eyes when communicating with them, and engaging in class and extra-curricular activities.  I don’t see this student as much now because he is in another building, but when I do, we talk about the positive things going on in his life.  I always try and tell him and other students that I am proud of them and ask them one question: What is going well in your life today?

 

Brett Delaney is a middle school health and physical education teacher in Iowa.  He is also a member of the Dove Self-Esteem cadre trainers who seek to increase awareness and encourage educators to implement the no-cost Dove Self-Esteem Project’s single or five-lesson Confident Me! curriculum.  For more information about the Dove Self-Esteem Project’s Confident Me! lessons, please visit the following link:  Dove Self-Esteem Project.

 

1. Drexler, PhD, Peggy.   January 17, 2013.  The Impact of Negative Body Image on Boys.  Psychology Today,  Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201301/the-impact-negative-body-image-boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Price of Joining the 100 Club

By Monica Coleman, Dove Self-Esteem Cadre Trainer

Written by Cairn Guidance in partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project

The way we look at ourselves and others has changed dramatically with social media and tools used to engage with the world online.  We have replaced our pocket mirrors with the selfie function of our cell phones and made habits of posting our self-checks online for all to see.  Filters, angles, and edits help erase any blemish and accentuate features beyond their reality.  We can add muscles, lose weight, increase our height or decrease it, all with a few clicks before we post images on social media.  The manipulation of professional media, like ads in print and TV, are well-documented and has been shown to distort girls’ perception of beauty.  Now, anyone with the right app can complete many of these edits in less than a minute right in the palm of their hands.  You better believe that young people struggling with accepting their appearance might succumb to the instant gratification of likes, shares, hearts, and praises that are often the result of heavily-edited, filtered photos.

While nothing is wrong with a young person wanting to look beautiful or handsome, the problem arises when their vanity becomes so important that it drives them to doing things that affect their ability to think critically and make good, safe decisions.  It may seem harmless to alter images before posting them.  However, consider the price young people are really paying to join the “100 Club,” which really isn’t a club as much as it is the achievement of gaining 100 or more likes on a photo.   For some young people, getting 100 or more likes is the only reason they post anything on social media.  If they don’t reach that goal, they may delete the picture and only leave pictures that have 100 or more likes.  This leaves a false impression and sense of who that young person really is in life if they only display photos that are popular.

As adults working with youth, we can reverse this trend by helping young people understand that their value is not based on their appearance or ability to achieve 100 or more likes.  One quick way to do this is tucked inside lessons in the Confident Me! curriculum, available at no cost through the Dove Self-Esteem Project.  This curriculum contains a module on media messages and addresses the detrimental impact social media can play in a young person’s life.  The lesson helps students explore how personal media can impact their self-esteem and lead to serious mental health problems like depression, for example.  Further, the lesson encourages students to create goals to resist images that promote ideal appearances, such as those that edited images seek to achieve, by selecting a small, simple action to start making a change in this area.

I have been thinking about the ‘100 Club’ idea and would like to put a spin on it to show young people just how many adults out here care about them and accept them just the way they are.  I now challenge any adult reading this to join the “Confident Me! Club” with me by sending an email to me to get a copy of this curriculum to implement in your school.  My goal is for this curriculum to be implemented in 150 schools by December 1, 2018.  Let me know if you would like more information on Confident Me! Email me at monica@monicalcoleman.com.

 

 

We Can Affirm AND Challenge Young People

By Liz Thorne

A recent article in the Atlantic explored gender and the intersections of adolescent development, medical care, and parenting. Through the experiences of young people, trans and gender non-conforming folks, families and researchers, the article explores the central question of how to balance providing young people the support (from family support and mental health services to puberty-blocking drugs, hormones and/or surgery) they need while keeping in mind that adolescence is a time of identity exploration, and there is a diverse spectrum of gender identities beyond cis and trans- over 50 different identities are listed on Facebook. The article has received criticism from some readers, often those in the trans/gender non-conforming community for the focus on people who “desist” or “detransition”. Needless to say, there are so many layers to unpack in this issue, but setting that aside for a moment, I want to bring forward the pieces I found poignant as a cisgender female, heterosexual, White parent and professional working in adolescent and school health.

One thing that stood out to me in the article was the central tension between fully affirming and accepting young people’s (whether it is your child, student, or patient) identity with the pacing of young people making medical decisions that impact them for the rest of their lives. From the perspective of a parent, I fully understand wanting to give your kids all of the resources they need to be successful. I also recognize the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming folks in the medical community, and moving away from any sort of gatekeeping or putting in place hoops to jump through in order to get care.  Youth development practices came to mind while I was reading this article, particularly the tenants of Developmental Relationships, a framework created by the Search Institute’s research in what makes relationships powerful for young people. The elements are:

-       Express care

-       Challenge growth

-       Provide support

-       Share power

-       Expand possibilities

Developmental relationships not only express care and provide support, but they challenge growth. We need both. Mental health, influences of peers and social groups and societal and cultural norms all contribute to the development of gender identity, and all of these layers need to be interrogated by young people as they figure out who they are. However, that nuanced and critical analysis of themselves and their culture by young people needs to happen in an environment where they are affirmed and supported.

A well-trained team of providers working in partnership with youth and families will lead to better outcomes.

Sharing power, particularly with regard to the medical community for trans and gender non-conforming young people is paramount. A well-trained team of providers working in partnership with youth and families will lead to better outcomes. Finally, expanding the possibilities for young people as they explore their identities, to me, is to continually challenge stereotypical gender norms and roles. This is something we talk about a lot in our family. Case in point- my 2 year old son loves to wear his big sister’s dresses. It is fascinating to see how this one clothing choice changes the way the world interacts with him. Yet, when he plays loud and rough he is “all boy”. We constantly challenge those gender stereotypes as they come up (which is almost everyday). Boys can wear dresses. Girls can have short hair. Boys can play with baby dolls. Girls can be loud and climb things.

Whether you like or dislike the Atlantic article as written, one thing that I think even critics can agree with is that the foundation of any healthy identity development must be affirmation, love and support.  It stood out to me that many of the young people in the article were surrounded by affirming and supportive parents and had the means and ability to access medical professionals who also affirmed their identity. This is not the case for many young people in this country. We all can do our part to create a more affirming and loving society- in our homes, communities and institutions. Below are lists some actions I came up with, and would love to hear others from anyone reading this as well!

-       Support statewide policies that make access to medical services for trans and gender-non-confirming youth available and affordable.

-       Make sure your state department of education and school district has a non-discrimination and student rights policy that includes trans and gender-nonconforming students as a part of Title IX, as Federal guidance on the issue was rolled back by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

-       Support your school to have an all-user bathroom and policies that allow students to use the locker room that aligns with their gender identity.

-       Call students by their preferred pronouns. Let them wear clothing that makes them feel good.

-       Ensure comprehensive sexuality education includes information and skill building around respect for people with different gender identities.

-       Bring voices from the trans/gender non-conforming community into your classroom. Engage your school’s Queer Straight Alliance (QSA) and reach out to organizations run by and for folks in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

-       Challenge stereotypical gender norms and tell the young people in your life you love them, for who they are, daily.

-       Support and donate to organizations in your community that serve trans and gender non-conforming youth and families.

 

Resources:

-       The Trevor Project https://www.thetrevorproject.org/

-       Human Rights Campaign, Welcoming Schools professional development program. http://www.welcomingschools.org/

-       Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project http://www.thetaskforce.org/current_action/transgender-non-conforming-justice-project/

Negative Social Determinants of Health; How Can We Make an Impact?

By Samantha Lowe

At-risk youth have strong negative Social Determinants of Health (SDoH), which include conditions in which you are born, grow, live, work and age.  SDoH include biology and genetics, individual behavior, social environment, physical environment, and access of health services.

Supporting at-risk youth is of the utmost importance as they are less likely to have access to health care, health education, and formal sex education. Educating and equipping youth with personal safety, nutrition, and relationship skills, in a comfortable environment could be life changing, as at-risk youth are also more at risk for sexual violence.

A recent study conducted in Central Texas of youth enrolled in the Risk-Reduction Education about Abstinence, Contraception, and Health, or the REACH project (Wilson et al., 2018). 76 youth between the ages of 15-21 years, who were homeless, current or former foster youth, or youth who left high school prior to graduation made up the sample population (Wilson et al., 2018).

Across all groups (male, female, heterosexual and non-heterosexual), the most common topic that youth were interested in learning was Healthy Relationships and Personal Safety (Wilson et al., 2018).  Overall, youth reported wanting to learn about these topics from a nurse/doctor or a teacher, reporting that it is difficult to learn about these topics from a family member (Wilson et al., 2018). The least preferred type of educators across all groups was a Faith Based Worker, while the mode of learning across all groups was the same, youth preferred to learn in a small group class setting (Wilson et al., 2018). In a surprising result, the least preferred mode of sexuality education was learning over technology, this included apps and text messaging (Wilson et al., 2018).

Supporting at-risk youth includes listening to their educational preferences, developing innovative programs and creating new ways to engage youth within the process. This does not stop or begin with sex education, it begins with supporting the child and the community. Keeping at risk students active, engaged in community activities, and informed on health risks and supports can begin in the classroom but needs to be continued once the students leave school. For example, relationships can be a difficult topic to cover in classroom and most learning opportunities about the topic are environmental, making out of school community supports a key factor (Wilson et al., 2018).

Triple Play delivers on the belief that whole child health fosters young people’s ability to gain diverse knowledge, skills, and protective factors that enable them to overcome barriers to wellness and positively impact their future health. Triple Play provides health promotion, which encompasses health education, health literacy and a range of social and environmental interventions designed to benefit and protect health and quality of life.
— Boys and Girls Clubs of America

An organization who has been working to help at risk student populations is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, they have been implementing a program titled, TRIPLE PLAY: GAME PLAN FOR MIND, BODY AND SOUL, a program designed to support youth who are raised in areas with poor SDoH.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of America continue to run research on how well the program is working, more information on the program along with statistics and research findings can be found at the link below!

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/boys--girls-clubs-of-america-and-anthem-foundation-improve-health--wellness-factors-among-todays-youth-to-create-healthier-future-generations-300661679.html

Citations:

Wilson, K., Maness, S., Thompson, E., Rosen, B., McDonald, S., & Wiley, D. (2018). Examining Sexuality Education Preferences Among Youth at Risk for Poor Sexual Health Outcomes Based on Social Determinants of Health Factors. American Journal Of Sexuality Education, 1-14. doi: 10.1080/15546128.2018.1447414

Meet Nanci Coolen, DSEP Regional Incentive Award Winning Middle School Physical Educator

 By Antionette Meeks of Cairn Guidance, a Dove Self-Esteem Project Partner

I am the luckiest teacher in the world! I teach 150 middle school girls and they are awesome!”

Nanci Coolen is a middle school physical education teacher in the state of Hawaii.  She has been teaching middle school for fifteen years.  If there is anything she has noticed, it is that girls need to learn how to develop confidence and love themselves.  She believes her students are constantly bombarded with social media, stress, pressure, and have virtually every part of society telling them that they should look and act a certain way.

Nanci offers kudos to the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) and its Confident Me! lessons designed to get the valuable message about body confidence and positive self-esteem out. After discovering the content is research-based, she spent some time prepping for the single lesson version, including copying handouts, preparing her thoughts, and gathering magazines and materials for the lesson.  DSEP offers two different ways to teach Confident Me! by using the single lesson or five lesson curriculum.  The single lesson can be taught as a stand-alone lesson, as with Nanci’s students, or as a booster after the five-lessons have been taught.

The lesson itself took approximately one hour to teach – this is a fluid number – you could go faster or take longer depending upon the depth and breadth of your discussions. Two hours – two amazing hours of my time to teach these girls how to identify society’s pressures, how to notice what the media does to ads and things to make them look ‘perfect,’ and to discuss strategies and make goals to believe in themselves and to be more confident, self-loving people! Two hours well spent, I would say!

She plans on teaching this lesson again. Next year, she will include the boys (her school gender splits their classes).  After teaching this to the girls, Nanci knows self-esteem is something the boys need to know, as well – either as students who are experiencing these things or to know what the girls are going through.

Nanci finds the lessons are well-written, easy to follow, research-based, and so worth the time it takes to teach these valuable lessons!  Her girls enjoyed the lesson very much and made comments such as “I am not going to let the media tell me what I am supposed to look like,” “girl power,” “thank you for teaching me this – I didn’t know what they did to these ads to make them look perfect,” and “how am I supposed to live up to an image that isn’t even real?” – these comments made it all worthwhile.

DSEP appreciates Nanci’s message to other educators and is honored to recognize her as one of four 2017 national incentive award winners.

If you implemented the DSEP Confident Me! Lessons this year, you can be entered to the 2018 incentive drawing to have a chance at winning all expense paid professional development to a national or regional conference. The drawing will take place in December 2018. Email Samantha at samantha@cairnguidance.com to be entered in. It’s our way of saying thank you for teaching the DSEP Confident Me! lessons.  For more information, please visit the website at Dove Self-Esteem Project.

I would highly recommend everyone to take the time to teach this important message – kids today need this now more than ever!

2018 Dove Self-Esteem Project Cadre Trainers

Cairn Guidance is pleased to introduce the 2018 Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) National Cadre of Trainers.  These 21 professionals are located in every region of the United States and represent 18 states. They work in the fields of education (health and physical education), school nursing, school counseling and prevention.  Schools, school district offices, state agencies and local and state organizations are where they are located. A few even own their own businesses or consult in the field of prevention. Lastly, they range in a few to several years of professional experience.

Each one is dedicated to the growth and well being of our youth.  They enjoy working with and meeting each one of you via presentations, webinars, and at DSEP exhibit booths located at many state and regional conferences, as well as national conferences, such as National SHAPE, American School Counselor Association, and the National School Nurses Association.  They are a great source and excited to introduce the DSEP Confident Me! lessons to you or assist you with implementation.  Learn more about each by reading the brief introductions below and email antionette@cairnguidance.com if you would like to connect with a cadre trainer in your region.

JAN GAY, Alabama

Jan is a school counselor serving students at a Pre-K - 8 school.  She is also an experienced clinical social worker. Jan sees the Dove Self Esteem Project (DSEP) as important because she sees the effects of low self-esteem and poor body image daily among her middle school students.  Further, it affects their ability to perform academically and interact socially with their peers. Jan believes everyone has the potential to be the best version of themselves inside and out. She says, "Confidence comes in all forms and beauty has many shapes."

TARA COOPER, New Jersey

Tara is a middle school health and physical education teacher.  She finds that adolescents are constantly bombarded by different conflicting messages on body image and ideals everyday from their family, peers, society, social media, religion and, not to mention, hormones.  Tara sees educators as having a role in helping to guide their journey of navigating through this difficult age, supplying students with as many tools as possible so they can best handle the situations that are presented to them.   She adds that DSEP allows these unique opportunities to do just that! Tara says, “We are whole when we encompass body, mind, and spirit...there is not one without the other.”

PAM POWERS, Texas

Pam is an educational consultant, award-winning educator, author, child advocate and owner of her own business that supports efforts to increase physical activity in schools, organizations, and at home.  She has developed curriculum for local schools and nationally. Pam recognizes the importance of helping others become more aware of body image and acceptance. She often remarks, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

ANNETTE FECERA, Pennsylvania

Annette is a fifteen-year health education veteran and loves every minute of it!   She feels very passionate about providing support and awareness for building students’ body confidence through the DSEP program.  Annette says, “As a female, I can definitely relate to having issues with self-esteem especially with the messages that the media sends.  I want to help students who may have the same struggles!”

MONICA COLEMAN, Mississippi

Monica is an entrepreneur, independent consultant on projects in health and wellness, education, hospitality, entertainment, and nonprofit industries.  She currently provides provide training and technical assistance on teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention projects.

Monica says DSEP is certainly important for many reasons. Chief of them is how this work can help young people improve their mental health. Body confidence and self-esteem are great topics to start the conversation about how young people view themselves and others and how that impacts their mental health.  Additionally, she believes self-esteem is needed in all of our lives because it reminds us to practice self-care.

DANIELLE PETRUCCI, Massachusetts

Danielle is a middle school Life Skills teacher and an adjunct instructor.  She helps students think about who they are today and the kind of adult they want to become socially, emotionally, and physically through skill development. Danielle says, “I was interested in becoming a DSEP Cadre member to help young girls and boys understand their self worth goes far beyond body image. When students break through the barriers of negative body talk and comparisons, they can begin to realize their full potential where nothing holds them back."

MICHELLE RAWCLIFFE, Connecticut

Michelle teaches health education to 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.  She is also a swim coach with a community-based organization.  She says, “DSEP is an important component of our Comprehensive School Health program because it provides a foundation for all the health literacy skills students will practice.  When students feel good about themselves, they are more likely to make good decisions, set goals, eat healthy and exercise, take healthy risks, confidently resist pressures, etc.  The activities that build skills related to self-confidence improve the dynamic in the classroom and lead to rich discussions and experiences. My hope is that when students have the skills to maintain high self-esteem, they will develop an enduring empowerment to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible.”

RACHEL CALLAWAY, Arizona

Rachel is an early childhood physical education teacher and a Coordinated School Health school coordinator for her local health department.  She sees the Dove Self-Esteem Project as a vital tool to help guide educators and students through tough transitions. A quote she thinks is appropriate for confidence in young people, "Knowledge is power, but enthusiasm pulls the switch"- Ivern Ball.

JOHN LAKSHMANAN, Maryland

John is his school’s health and physical education department head who teaches health education to 6th, 7th and 8th graders, coaches basketball, serves as the athletic director and chair of a mentoring program for young men at his school.  John enjoys what he does. No matter the context in which he interacts with students, he sees the need for higher self-esteem and more confidence amongst a variety of students.  John says, “This is why the Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) is so important. Students often judge themselves against media representations of what a perfect body and person should look and act like.  These personas and images are unattainable because they are not real. The DSEP provides students with a dose of reality and a fundamental understanding of what is real when it comes to being a teen in 2018.”

KORI BLACK, Wyoming

Kori, having over 30 years of experience, teaches middle school students health and physical education.  Dove’s Self-Esteem Project is important to her because it provides the tools to reach today’s young people and teaches them how to see themselves in a true healthy light and how to take a stand for positive body image and diminish appearance pressure. "Having a strong confidence in one's capabilities rather than relying on one's looks is something I believe very strongly."  Kori shares Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

LAURA ROSS, Georgia

Laura is a middle school counselor whose focus is to connect with students so she can connect them with their education.  She does this by supporting students in academics, post-secondary awareness, and personal/social issues. The Dove Self-Esteem Project has been a great way for her to connect with her students in the personal/social domain by helping them explore and breakdown the appearance ideals they are bombarded with in media daily and to build self-confidence.  Laura says, "Building confidence and feeling good about who they are as a person helps students to also build confidence and feel good about who they are as pupils."

BRETT DELANEY, Iowa

Brett teaches middle school health and physical education, and is a softball coach.  “Self-esteem, body image, and body confidence is something that is an on-going daily issue for both males and females. Finding a way to make a personal connection to the individual or situation is the most important step to the ability to teaching/ helping others.  The opportunity to share the power of this program is very intriguing. Most times when people think of body image, self-esteem, and body confidence they think of females. Being a male I think I could bring a unique experience to influence others to address all parties present in a given classroom.”

MARGARET HORNBECK, New Mexico

Margaret has her National Board Certification and is a middle school physical education teacher.  She also coaches soccer. Margaret is excited for this adventure with the Dove Self-Esteem Project.

SHELLY KLUTZ, North Carolina

Shelly is a Nationally Certified School Nurse who for the last eleven years has served pre-kindergarten to high school aged students.  She is also her school district’s lead nurse. Shelly struggled with self-esteem issues as a teenager. One of the main reasons she became a nurse was to work with youth in hopes to be a positive influence in their lives. Being a school nurse has provided her with such amazing opportunities to do this.  She has used the DSEP Confident Me! curriculum and enjoys sharing it with other professionals.  Shelly shares the quote, "Believe in yourself, and you will be unstoppable" ~ Author Unknown

DAWN GRAFF-HAIGHT, Oregon

Dawn serves as a college professor of health education.  She also is a member of a state-wide cadre of educators focused on reducing physical, social and emotional barriers to learning by leveraging partnerships at the local and state levels.  Dawn is also one of the educators involved in updating DSEP materials. She is excited to bring the program to teachers and students throughout the United States. Dawn says, "The Dove Self-Esteem Project enables middle school students to develop body confidence and understand the external influences that impact them during this important developmental stage. Building self esteem among middle school students sets the stage for making healthy choices for a lifetime."

KYLIE PYBUS, Oregon

Kylie is a health educator and program coordinator with school-based health centers.  She loves watching students succeed at school as they learn to take care of their physical, social, and emotional health.  Kylie sees the Dove Self-Esteem Project as helping students achieve health by promoting body confidence and building positive peer connections.  A positive self-image helps students reach their full potential and achieve their goals.

BRITNEE NWOKEJI, Pennsylvania

Britnee serves as a program manager at a children’s hospital where she works with several schools and out-of-school time sites.  She is passionate about working with disadvantaged populations to create healthier, sustainable school and community environments.  Britnee finds that DSEP is important because it fills a gap that is often ignored. As a cadre trainer, she will help raise awareness around body confidence and help promote positive messaging that will transpire to helping young adolescents develop confidence and self-esteem that play an instrumental role in their overall well-being.  Britnee says, "YOU are your own unique individual and you were created to be the way you are. Be confident in who you are…Love Yourself…Embrace your imperfections. Imperfection is Beauty.”

MARY JO WENTLAND, Wisconsin

Mary Jo is a health, physical and adaptive physical educator at a school for at-risk girls and is in her twentieth year of teaching.  Her passion for health education has given her the opportunity to speak in several states and help develop curriculum for her state. She is excited to be a DSEP cadre member.  Mary Jo says, “Helping young people overcome body image issues and fulfill their potential by building positive body confidence and self-esteem is so important in today’s youth.  Body image starts in your mind and not in the mirror. I look forward to bringing the DSEP curriculum to teachers in the Midwest.” Mary Jo adds, "Your body hears everything your mind says, Stay Positive."

JULIE MACK, Oregon

Julie is a school district wellness coordinator and health and physical education teacher at an alternative high school.  She supports wellness programming for students and staff at the district level and supports youth in the classroom as well as in athletics, as a volleyball and soccer coach.  During her years of working with youth, she has seen how having body confidence allows students to participate, be braver, and follow their ideas and goals, finding more success in their lives.   Julie says, “As a DSEP cadre member, I can support all staff and students as they learn more about how to be body positive and confident. It is amazing to watch young men and women not be held back by a lack of self-esteem but reach beyond towards their dreams. When we have confidence and believe in ourselves, we can achieve our goals.”

EBONY SECTION, Georgia

Ebony is a project coordinator and has managed multiple federally funded programs targeting youth.  She has had the pleasure of working with youth for more than ten years, so she is not a stranger to working with young people.  Her drive for doing this work for a decade stems from her love of seeing youth live healthier lives and helping them live up to their fullest potential.  Ebony believes self-esteem is the most important protective factor in eliminating risks and producing the healthiest outcomes in people, especially youth.  The Dove Self-Esteem Project helps students be their best selves by building self-confidence and raising self-esteem. One of her favorite quotes is, "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different."-Coco Chanel

Stop Rewarding for Perfect Attendance

What messages are parents and the school sending when we are rewarding coming to school 100% of days? The message is this: We want you at school no matter what it takes. 

About a year ago, I attended a graduation for an elementary school in which students received recognition and awards for perfect attendance. Granted, the two students who won received bicycles (yah for promoting a health recognition gift versus a Pizza Hut gift card), however I want to address how this simple recognition is incredibly inequitable and potentially harmful to many students. 

Students who have perfect attendance are more likely to be engaged in school and do well academically- sure! Of course. However, many students can't achieve this for valid reasons. My biggest concern for those with perfect attendance is this... how many students strive for this recognition and refuse to be absent when truly sick? How many students come to school when they legitimately need a day off? How many come to school when contagious? What messages are parents and the school sending when we are rewarding coming to school 100% of days? The message is this: We want you at school no matter what it takes. 

I understand that it also sends the message that attendance is important, however, there are other ways of doing this without 13% of students who are chronically absent feeling marginalized as a result of a parent issue, health issue, child care issue, homeless issue, addiction issue at home. Rewarding for attendance almost punishes and stigmatizes students who in many cases don't have control over their attendance!

Based on the most recent national data, about 13 percent of students miss 15 or more school days.1 Chronic absenteeism is related to a variety of issues. Chronic absenteeism is defined differently in each state, however, research suggests that missing 10 percent or more school days can affect student outcomes.2

The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children and youths as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. This includes: 

  • Children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason

  • Children and youths who may be living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, shelters, or awaiting foster care placement

  • Children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings

  • Children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings, or

  • Migratory children who qualify as homeless because they are children who are living in similar circumstances listed above.

These students are more likely to be chronically absent, as you can imagine. Other criteria that increase risk of chronic absenteeism include: Students who are hungry, living through toxic divorces or have chronic illnesses. Students with unmanaged asthma, for example, are more likely to be absent. If a student does not have health insurance or is from an undocumented family they are less likely to go to a doctor. Students who have vision, hearing and oral health problems that haven't been diagnosed are more likely to be absent as well. If a school is fortunate enough to have a school nurse who implements regular screenings on some of these issues- that does increase attendance rates since these health concerns may be caught and managed. However, nationally, our school nurse situation (ratio of a school nurse to student and even a full time nurse in each school is rare) is pretty depressing. 

My suggestion is that schools consider spending the resources, time and effort, including collecting the data to inform and determine why students are chronically absent at their school, develop a school-wide strategic plan around it and implement some evidence-based strategies to create equity around attendance and presenteeism. However, consider two things: Don't reward for 100%/Perfect attendance (lower that percent) and do it in a way creates an inclusive environment, not a disparate one. 

Citations:

1 U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, “2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection: A First Look,” (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of
Education, June 2016), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/2013-14-first-look.pdf.

2 Robert Balfanz, Lisa Herzog, and Douglas MacIver, “Preventing Student Disengagement and Keeping Students on the Graduation Path in Urban Middle-
Grades Schools: Early Identification and Effective Interventions,” Educational Psychologist 42, no. 4 (Dec. 2007): 223–235, http://new.every1graduates.org/wpTcontent/uploads/2012/03/preventing_student_disengagement.pdf; and Applied Survey Research, “Attendance in Early
Elementary Grades: Associations with Student Characteristics, School Readiness, and Third Grade Outcomes,” (San Jose, Calif.: July 2011),
http://www.attendanceworks.org/wordpress/wpTcontent/uploads/2010/04/ASR-Mini-Report-Attendance-Readiness-and-Third-Grade-Outcomes-7-8-11.pdf.

An Argument for Media Literacy within Middle School Sex Education

By Samantha Lowe

Media literacy refers to the ability to check if your source is creditable and ensure the information you are reading is accurate and based in science. And, it’s becoming increasingly more important. The skill of media literacy should be applied to all information you read on the internet but often people tend to believe whatever they read, credible or not. We often address “fake” news/information in adult populations, but what about adolescents? Young teens and teens are even less aware of the need to check the credibility of the information they are receiving.

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I recently read the article “Why Can’t We Just Have Sex?”: An Analysis of Anonymous Questions About Sex Asked by Ninth Graders, this article focused on urban 9th grade students of mostly Latino and African American decent (N=645). Students were asked to write down any question about sex they would like to have answered during their sex education course. While this article shined light on what adolescent students want to learn during a comprehensive sex education course, it had some important and shocking unintentional results (Pariera and McCormack, 2017). For example,
- The number of young people who claiming to have learned about birth control has DECREASED in recent years (Pariera and McCormack, 2017);
- One third of all educators with the task of teaching sex education do not receive any special training (Pariera and McCormack, 2017);
- Less than half of the young people say they learned how to use a condom or information on where to get birth control (Pariera and McCormack, 2017); and
- 37% of all questions asked indicated some form of misinformation (Pariera and McCormack, 2017).

A 2004 report found that 11 of the 13 common used sex education curricula were inaccurate, containing falsehoods about HIV, abortion and birth control (Pariera and McCormack, 2017). Students are leaving sex education courses with no skills applicable to real life scenarios, they are often also not able to differentiate between real and false information and have no functional skills.

Youth in the United States are expected to wade through countless encounters with false information and come out with all the right information. That seems unreasonable when modern adults are not able to accomplish the same task. With recent studies showing that sex education curriculum problems are impeding student access to accurate and practical information that could be beneficial to them (Pariera and McCormack, 2017). It is time to begin equipping students with the ability to differentiate between factual and false information, it also time to begin funding specialized training for educators who will be teaching sex education courses. Equipping educators with media literacy skills and the ability to address and correct misconceptions from students.

Source:
Pariera, K. and McCormack, T. (2017). “Why Can't We Just Have Sex?”: An Analysis of Anonymous Questions About Sex Asked by Ninth Graders. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 12(3), pp.277-296.

Building Youth-Adult Partnerships

By Liz Thorne

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I recently worked with the Oregon School Based Health Alliance to develop and facilitate a training to build capacity for staff that coordinate youth action councils or school health action councils (YACs or SHACs). The work is funded through the Oregon Health Authority’s School Based Health Center (SBHC) State Program Office. The funding is focused on mental health, and each YAC/SHAC works to raise awareness of their school’s school-based health center and implement a participatory action research project around mental health. Coordinators from across Oregon came together for two days to learn, share, and connect! They brought so much wisdom, energy and great strategies for working alongside young people.

What are Youth-Adult Partnerships?
Youth- adult partnerships are about sharing power with young people.  It occurs along a spectrum from zero youth involvement (they are a “vessel”) to total youth control (like youth led grass roots organizing). There’s a sweet spot in the middle where adults and youth share power. Adults may provide the connections, opportunities to build skills (like public speaking, research, writing), help keep everyone on the same page and organized, and help navigate obstacles but young people are making the decisions and leading the work. If you are interested in learning more about youth-adult partnerships, check out a webinar I co-facilitated with Haylee, the Student Health Advocate Coach for the Oregon School Based Health Alliance here http://osbha.org/blogs/ashleyosbhaorg/intro-youth-adult-partnerships-webinar .

Below are some of the best practices for building youth-adult partnerships adapted from research and practice, as well as some reflections from the training.

1) Pay attention to logistics and group dynamics. Young people have complicated lives and they need flexibility. Ensure you have many different ways young people can be involved that elevate different skills, interests and personalities. For example, you might have someone who is interested in graphic design but can’t make your meetings. Could they work on marketing materials or an infographic and keep connected through communication platforms like GroupMe, SLACK, or Google Hangout? How often does the group meet? Are there barriers that keep a diverse array of young people from being able to participate (like transportation)?

2) Creating opportunities for reflection. These can be formal or informal, and individually or as a group. Some of the benefits of youth adult partnerships come from young people creating connections with a supportive adult, their peers, and having a stronger connection to their community or school. Holding space for reflection and relationship building is critical (and particularly related to number 3).

3) Affirmatively address issues of role and power. This is a BIG one, and one that our training participants agreed could have been the whole focus of our training! Many of the “systems” (schools, local or state government, etc.) are not built to effectively partner with young people. Plus, many adults in those systems are probably not used to working with young people in a partnership capacity. As young people work together to create change in their community they will inevitably: 1) run into obstacles that will delay or derail their plans and 2) confront issues of inequality, oppression, stigma or “isms”. It’s vital that young people are supported to identify the power brokers or points of leverage in their system/community and get them on board. When obstacles do arise, the coordinator or adult ally has to hold space to be able to help facilitate the likely anger and frustration into a new path forward.  Having a strong group process, team building opportunities, and time for reflection with thoughtful facilitation can help support young people as they critically examine all the things that influence them, their families, neighborhood and community.

For more information about building youth-adult partnerships or participatory action research with young people, you may contact Liz at liz@cairnguidance.com

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Adolescent Health- Tobacco Prevention Ideas!

How can our tobacco prevention public health partners support youth tobacco prevention and cessation? In a couple of weeks, I have the opportunity to work with 75 Kentucky county tobacco coordinators. My hope is to work with them on some visioning and discuss evidence-based strategies when doing this work. I won't have time to focus specifically on adolescent health, as the day's focus is on all of Kentucky's population, however, wanted to suggest some ideas for anyone working on youth tobacco prevention/intervention! Here goes...

1. Work with one district that just adopted a strong comprehensive policy that is ready to go from awareness (policy is there, but only awareness of it exists) to implementation. Content support may include: Systems Thinking Systems Changing Simulation, Tobacco Policy, School/District Wellness Councils, School Health Index completion to drive action planning, review local YRBS data around tobacco, analyze inventory/Index results and prioritize, evidence-based tobacco prevention programs and practices, action planning, implementation of action plans, evaluation and sustainability work.

2. Photovoice Project- Youth ages 12-19 are asked to submit a photo that speaks to:

·      A healthier State

·      A smoke-free State

·      Tobacco prevention

·      Effects of tobacco

·      Other TBD

Photos are submitted by a certain date and state convenes a group of experts to judge photos, using a scoring rubric that has been developed and shared as contest rules/process is distributed.Use some dollars to offer prize money to 3 winners. Contest is an opportunity to partner with school related arts, school health and state and local tobacco prevention partners. It’s also an opportunity to do some advocacy for tobacco prevention. An evening event may be held where top 10 photos are displayed and invite partners, youth, etc.

3. Host and facilitate a Comprehensive Tobacco Prevention Implementation Workshop for School Board Members. Objectives:

-Review State's school tobacco prevention law;
-Learn definitions and review effective practices in tobacco prevention policies, practices and programs in schools;
-Draft school board policy that aligns with State's comprehensive tobacco prevention law;
-Develop effective media messages for their communities.

Analyze and assess all tobacco policies from all districts in State/region and score them using a rubric based in best practice. Create a statewide map with a key marking districts as gold, silver and bronze. Bring that map to training events and administrator and school board conferences and share via social media.

4. Offer Tobacco Prevention Curricula Training events to two districts that apply. Application will include a readiness checklist. Trainer facilitates a one day training on Foundations of Health Education and participants will use CDCs HECAT to select an evidence based or promising practice tobacco curriculum that best fits their district’s needs. Trainer supports district presentation to their school board for adoption of this curriculum, if applicable. Once adopted, a 2-day tobacco prevention curriculum training on the program selected will cover the following goals and objectives.

5. Host a full-day Systems Thinking Systems Changing™ simulation training with youth (middle and high school-aged) and policy makers/education leaders. Systems Thinking/Systems Changing™ is used by teams in workshop settings to experience what it takes to make effective systemic change in schools. It provides opportunities for youth, educators, school boards and councils, leadership teams, school administrators, educational consultants and reformers about the structures and strategies that schools need to be continuously improving learning organizations that are the best they can be. It supports doing systems change in schools, including policy creation, revision and implementation. 

6. Facilitate positive youth development action research project around Tobacco Prevention. Includes 3 non-consecutive full day workshops.