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Young Leader Empowerment Series

kaia headshot

Hello Young Leaders and Happy New Year! My name is Kaia McKenney, and I will be your new host for the Young Leader Empowerment Series virtual modules. I am currently a fourth-year student at Ohio University studying Environmental Studies and Spanish, and I am excited to learn and share content with you in the coming months. As a young leader myself, I am deeply passionate about supporting girls and young women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and bringing awareness to environmental issues from an urban context. 

Why Virtual?

The Women’s Center was inspired by COVID-19 to think creatively about how we can still support the amazing young leaders that we have worked with the last few years through the Young Women Leaders Program, and how we could support new young leaders as well! This website will now house a virtual component of the Young Leader Empowerment Series that can be used by you at any time! I will be posting modules covering a range of topics, from body image to healthy relationships, here on this website. The amazing thing about this online component as well is that you can work through these modules with other people in your life. Gather (virtually, of course) friends, family, neighbors, and/or your COVID-19 pod, and explore these important topics in a fun, exciting, new, hands-on learning kind of way!

What Can I Expect?

Stay tuned as each month we’ll release a new module. You can visit this page to complete the modules in the comfort of your own home, revisit your favorites, or share them with someone else. Click the title of the lesson and a drop-down page will appear full of resources, videos, and an activity to do. We'll also let you know the "learning outcomes" for each module - meaning what we hope you gain from participating in each module (other than fun and improved confidence). Now, without further ado, let’s get started!


Contact womenscenter@ohio.edu or by calling 740-593-9625.


Who Runs the World? Girls!

What does it mean to be a girl?

What does it mean to be a girl?

What does it mean to you to be a “girl?” Does it require strength or compassion? Kindness? Intelligence? Why not all the

above? If you need some help answering this question, check out this fun book (this hyperlink opens The Gender Book) that showcases the diversity of gender and is celebratory and affirming of the LGBTQ+ community. The Gender Book is free to download, but they take donations.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where it is often an insult to do something “like a girl.” This comes from stereotypes, or widely held assumptions about particular people and things, about who girls are and how they should act. We will look further into this phenomenon during our video discussion later.

Some people may want you to believe that simply because you’re a girl, you must be the idea of beauty that is trendy that week, you can’t possibly be good at sports, and you have to care about someday becoming a wife and mother above everything else. Those people are lying.

In the activity for this lesson, Girl Power Crafting Hour, I want you to think about what girlhood means to you by drawing photographs of what your culture says it means to be a girl and what you think it means to be a girl. Those pictures may be the same or they may be different. Here is a sneak peak of what I created, proudly displayed in my living room:

A painting of a plant is on a table with a lamp and vase filled with sunflowers.

In some cultures around the world, girls must risk their lives to gain access to an education, while young boys never have to question if they’ll go to school. Those cultures see girlhood as less important than boyhood. As a result, nearly two thirds of women in the world are illiterate.

Additionally, more than 17 million girls have been displaced amid the global refugee crisis. The free short film Brave Girl Rising  follows the life of one young woman living in a refugee camp.  Because of their personal lived experiences, the girls in this movie may have a widely different idea of what girlhood means to them. To learn more about what it’s like to be a young girl and an immigrant, check out this reading list.

Personally, I’ve learned from my friends and family as well as through popular culture that part of being a girl means being a strong advocate. It means being someone who stands up not only for themselves, but for others as well. Embodying this idea are people like Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old climate activist and the 2019 TIME magazine person of the year; Mari Copeny, otherwise known as Little Miss Flint, who has been urging politicians to fix the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, since she was 8; and Sarah Rose Huckman, who lobbied to extend nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in New Hampshire while she was in high school.

Your definition of girlhood may not match mine, and that’s okay. It may not match the definitions of your family or your friends either. What is important is that your definition of girlhood is your own. It shouldn’t be constructed by what people want you to believe being a girl should mean, you must think for yourself above all. To help you come up with your own definition of girlhood, which you can then use in our crafting adventure, I want you to investigate the following: create, listen, and learn activities!


Grab your mobile device and click this link to create your own empowering “This Girl Can” poster.  Check out the one I made below!

Taylor Linzinmeir flexes in a Girl Power, This Girl Can poster.



This one is for my fellow podcast-lovers. Listen to this podcast from Critical Feminist Conversations where Lisa Corrigan and Laura Weiderhaft talk about their own experiences with girlhood.


Throughout your life, you will likely see injustice in the world. Right now, that injustice might live in your school, your community and maybe even in your relationships. The Spark Movement is here to help. They have compiled resources, advice and opportunities to help you become a better activist here on their website.

Watch, Learn, Discuss!

Watch this Nike Ad, “What will they say about you?” (also embedded below) and reflect with those around you. 

Keep these questions in mind as you watch the video and try to answer them together after you’ve finished.

  • Question 1: What are some stereotypes that you have heard about girls? Are they true?
  • Question 2: Can you recall an instance where you were underestimated because of your girlhood? How did that feel?
  • Question 3: What can you say in response to someone who tries to disrespect girls? How can you support other girls as we break stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a girl?

For Your Listening Pleasure: A Playlist!

I have created a YouTube playlist for you to listen to while you create the Girl Power Craft Hour for this week. You can look forward to new playlist with each module! I hope you enjoy it so much that you listen to it beyond just our Craft Hour this week!

Girl Power Crafting Hour

We want you to teach us about what the culture of girlhood is by using imagery.  Draw photographs of what your culture says it means to be a girl AND what you think it means to be a girl. Would the picture for those questions be the same or different? These could be sketches of your room, of items at the store, but something that signifies for you the answers to these questions. Post it in a place you can look every day.

  • Materials list:
  • Paper, canvas, or anything else you can draw on.
  • Writing utensils such as pencils, markers, paint, and colored pencils.
  • Get creative! Find things around your house you can use to make your masterpiece. This could be cutouts from magazines, glitter, even uncooked macaroni noodles.

Watch this video  to see my friends and I participate in the Girl-Power Crafting Hour!

Thank you for joining us for this amazing hour together! I cannot wait for you to visit us again next time. Remember, you are amazing!

Big Ships, Small Ships, and the Best Ship: Leadership!

So, You Want to be a Leader?

The words, “So, you want to be a leader?” above a group of 7 cartoon-style characters in black and white.

So, you want to be a leader? Climb aboard, the Women’s Center is here to help. One way to become a better leader at your school and community is to have the necessary abilities, knowledge, or skills to do something successfully. This is being competent. To be a good leader, you must believe in your capability to make good decisions and academic choices. You must be confident in your competency. Why? Because Leaders Get. Things. Done.

Leaders also care about and appreciate others. One of the ways we learn to care about each other is by recognizing the ways that we are alike and the ways that we are different. That way, we can appreciate others for the unique gifts they bring to the world. These gifts can be a person's cleverness, their sense of style, even their cooking abilities.

The ways that we are alike and different shape our experience of the world. For example, I am a white woman, which means I haven’t had the same experiences that a Black woman has had. We could both be underestimated by some because we are women, but I have never been underestimated because of my skin color in addition to being a woman.

This idea of us having many different identities and aspects is referred to as intersectionality, a word coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 (this hyperlink opens a video of  Kimberlé Crenshaw explaining intersectionality, it’s also embedded below).

Side note: I know the concept of intersectionality can be very confusing. In fact, I never even learned the word existed until I was in college. I have linked some more videos for you to watch about it down below to better explain the concept. Now, back to the lesson.

Taylor inquisitively reading a green copy of the second edition of the book, Threshold Concepts in Women’s and Gender Studies: Ways of Seeing, Thinking, and Knowing by Christie Launius and Holly Hassel.

When you care and appreciate others, you can then become their ally. An ally (this hyperlink opens the magazine feature, “Anatomy of and Ally”) is a member of a group or team who believes they can make a positive difference for other people. They are willing to take risks, to stand up for someone who is treated unfairly, and to speak up -- even when it’s unpopular to do so.

This doesn’t mean you have to invite everyone over for sleepovers and braid their hair. Being an ally for someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you are their close friend. It just means that you have their backs and are willing to lift them up when they need support. (But you can always be their friend, too!) We will look at this further in our video discussion.

As important it is to be an ally, it is equally important to celebrate the allies you have in your own life. In our creative activity this month, we will make Certificates of Appreciation for those who have had a positive impact on us.

Just like how there is no one definition of what it means to be a girl, there is no one definition of what it means to be a leader. A leader looks like many different things. There are young leaders, like the girls we talked about in our last module, “Who Runs the World? Girls!”, and there can also be women leaders in their 80s, like the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (this hyperlink opens a video of RBG answering the question, “Do you have any regrets?” You can also click here to read more about RBG’s life as a feminist pioneer in her obituary by NPR.) What these women and girls have in common is the fact that they stand up against injustices –both big and small-- they see in their world.

Despite all the incredible work they’ve done paving the way for people, women leaders, especially those of color, are often left out of the history books. For example, many people don’t know the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement was started by two trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera (this hyperlink opens a short bio on Rivera from the National Portrait Gallery) and Marsha P. Johnson (this hyperlink opens a Vogue article written about Johnson). Another name you might not have heard is Patsy Takemoto Mink (this hyperlink opens a video about Mink’s work). She was the first woman of color, first Asian American, and first woman from Hawaii to be elected to U.S. Congress. As you complete this month’s module, make sure to keep these women leaders in mind.

Create a Certificate of Appreciation

Think about the women in your lives who have been a positive influence on you or have been an ally to you with the people around you. Create a least one Certificate of Appreciation for a woman you appreciate. Look at the one I made below if you need some inspiration!

Taylor holding a piece of paper that reads’ “This Certificate of Appriciation is awarded to Katy Linzinmeir for being a great mom” in orange and blue marker.

If you look closely at this photo, you’ll see I spelled “appreciation” incorrectly. Whoops! This minor failure is actually a very good teaching moment. I left my mistake in this module because I believe it’s important that we normalize failures in our society. Women are constantly expected to be perfect and held to a higher standard even though everyone makes mistakes! We’ll talk about this more in a future module about perfectionism.

To complete your project, you will need:

  • Paper
  • Writing utensils such as pencils, markers, paint, and colored pencils.
  • Get creative! Find things around your house you can use to make your masterpiece. This could be anything from cutouts from magazines to glitter.


Listen to this episode (this hyperlink opens the podcast) of the podcast Code Switch to understand how race and racism affect our friendships.


As promised, here are some videos about this month’s word: intersectionality.

Watch, Learn, Discuss

Watch this video about the definition of the word “ally” AND read the information provided below the video with the people around you. Once you have finished, think about the following questions and try to answer them with your group.

  • Question 1: What does being an ally look like to you?
  • Question 2: Do you have to be someone’s friend to be their ally?
  • Question 3: What are some simple ways you can be an ally to someone who isn’t necessarily your friend?

For Your Listening Pleasure: A Playlist!

Here (this hyperlink opens the playlist on YouTube) is the playlist for this month on being a leader, an ally, and a friend.


Take a stroll around your neighborhood (with your guardian’s permission, of course) and take in the sights. Keep an eye out for the things you love about your community, and the things that you want to see change. Once you find something that you would like to see change, think about the necessary abilities, knowledge, or skills you need to successfully bring about that change.

Can’t go outside? No problem! You can take a virtual walk around Spain, New Zealand, or anywhere else on Earth using Google Voyager (hyperlink opens Google Voyager).

Check out me and my friends completing the activity in our own neighborhoods in the video below!


    New Year, New You?

    Let's Talk About Body Image!

    Content Warning:

    This module is focused on body image, and particularly challenging the ways society has tried to make people change the way they look and/or feel about themselves. We encourage you to practice self-care when determining whether or not to participate in this module. If you are currently experiencing gender dysphoria or body dysmorphia, help is available. A list of resources has been posted online by the National Center for Transgender Equality at https://transequality.org/additional-help, and on the National Eating Disorders Association website at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline


    When you think about your height, shape and weight, what do you feel? When you move your body, what do you experience? The answers to those questions encompass this month’s lesson: Body Image.

    The words “Let’s talk about Body Image” appear above three cartoon-style women on a background of teal green with gold stars.

    Television, movies and social media play a huge part in how we view our bodies. With the start of the new year, the onslaught of advertisements for workout equipment and gym memberships encouraging everyone to lose weight has only intensified, as it does every new-year's-resolution season. We often internalize these messages from the media, making us feel bad about ourselves when they perpetuate the idea that only one certain body type is acceptable and attractive and that you must make sure you fit this body type. This idea, coined by Naomi Wolf in her 1990 book, is called “The Beauty Myth.”

    Taylor holds her hand-painted portraits of Frida Kahlo, Iris Apfel and Halima Aden on a canvas with a pink background in front of her face.

    Two years ago, I created an art piece that was inspired by three women who have disrupted the beauty myth throughout the last few decades. On the left is Frida Kahlo. Frida was a Mexican painter who created art exploring identity, gender, class and race in Mexican society. She famously sported a unibrow and facial hair. In the middle is American businesswoman, interior designer and fashion icon, Iris Apfel. She got her first modeling contract at 97-years-old and is still rockin’ it, proving that true beauty has no age limit. On the right is Halima Aden, a hijabi fashion model. She was the first person to wear a hijab in the Miss Minnesota USA beauty pageant, and she has since been signed to IMG Models and was the first woman to appear wearing a burkini in Sports Illustrated. (Hyperlinks opens more information about Frida, Iris and Halima).

    Interestingly enough, Wolf also claims, "beauty is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact" (Wolf, as quoted in Wilson, Emily). Wolf, and English radical feminist writer Julie Bindel (this link opens an article by Bindel urging feminists to “ditch the makeup bag”), argue that going bare-faced and all natural is an act of feminism while putting on a full face of makeup is an act of submission. But doesn’t this belief itself, that you must be all natural to be a beautiful feminist, simply play into the beauty myth?

    Makeup can be an important part of identity expression for some in the LGBTQ+ community. For example, gender non-conforming activist, writer and producer Jacob Tobia (link opens a YouTube video) uses makeup to challenge the rules of gender. Grey, a genderfluid artist and musician, said in an interview with Dazed (the link opens the article) that makeup “gave me a way to navigate through the world when I was at my weakest point, and I realized through makeup that I could be whatever character I needed to be in order to make it through; in order to be myself” (Radin, Sara).

    For some, there may be external pressure from society to change your body in ways that you do not want to. You may be told that you have to look a certain way in order to be celebrated. For those of you who may relate to that, I encourage you to not let society tell you that your body makes you less than. You should appreciate it for all the incredible things that it can do. Your body enables you to spend time with your friends – whether virtually or in-person. It allows you to laugh, to dance and to dream. Give your body some extra love. Take a nap or a bath or make yourself an affirmation jar like my friend Rhianna did in this video (link opens the video on YouTube). Recognize that you are not your nose or your feet or your thighs. You are a whole person.

    A group who exemplifies this well are fat activists, like the plus-sized hijabi model Leah Vernon (link opens an article about Vernon on embracing the word “fat”). Fat activism is a political movement that advocates for the rights of fat people by raising awareness of the obstacles they are faced with in their day-to-day life. We will look further into what fat activism is—and isn’t -- in the “Learn” section of this module.  

    As you’ve grown up, what are some positive ways that your body has changed? Can you run faster? Can you reach higher shelves? Can you ride more rollercoasters than you could before? I know that when I was in middle school, it was hard for me to see the positives sometimes. If you happen to feel the same way I did, I’ve added some helpful resources at the bottom of this module.

    Creating a positive self-image doesn’t happen overnight. It is a continuous process that a lot of people must work on. But don’t fear, I’m here. You can always come back to this module whenever you need some extra love and support on your journey.

    A goal-setting grid you can fill in yourself. It has the five steps described above the photo set on a purple background with pink and green stars.

    Create: Radical Revolutions

    Create your own goal setting grid for the new year. Remember: True beauty is NOT skin deep! Set a resolution that doesn’t revolve around your body. Focus on your strengths. Look at and my friends’ goal grids below if you need some inspiration!

    • Step 1: Decide on a GOAL (e.g., get an A in English this grading period). Write it in the first box.
    • Step 2: Develop the STEPS to achieve it. When thinking of the step, remember that specific is terrific! Write them in the second box.
    • Step 3: Create a TIMELINE for the steps. Write it in the third box.
    • Step 4: Decide who can SUPPORT achieving the goal. Write it in the fourth box.
    • Step 5: Post your Radical Revolutions to your Instagram story and achieve your dreams!


    In this ABC podcast, “Facing down the beauty myth,” Miyuki Jokiranta analyzes how beauty influencers are reclaiming beauty and make-up as a tool of personal empowerment instead of a tool of the patriarchy (the hyperlink opens the podcast).

    Learn more about Fat Activism:

    This month we’re looking deeper into fat activism. Below are some videos to help us further understand what fat activism is (the hyperlinks open the respective videos). When you’re done think about how, given what you’ve viewed below, has your perception of the word “fat” changed?  

    • Virgie Tovar Tells Us The Difference Between Body Positivity and Fat Activism : “Virgie Tovar is an advocate for fat activism, which is not to be confused with the body positivity movement. Watch her explain what needs to change in the body positivity movement. “ - NYLON
    • What is Weight Discrimination and How Does it Affect Us? UCLA Researcher A. Janet Tomiyama Has Answers : A. Janet Tomiyama, Ph.D., is an associate professor at UCLA who studies health psychology and social psychology. In this Q&A, she sits down with Virgie Tovar to discuss what weight-based discrimination is.
    • Enough with the fear of fat : “In a society obsessed with body image and marked by a fear of fat, Kelli Jean Drinkwater engages in radical body politics through art. She confronts the public's perception of bigger bodies by bringing them into spaces that were once off limits -- from fashion runways to the Sydney Festival -- and entices all of us to look again and rethink our biases. ‘Unapologetic fat bodies can blow people's minds,’ she says.” - TEDxSydney

    Watch, Learn, Discuss!:

    Surround yourself with positive people and watch this video (the hyperlink opens the video on YouTube) of girls ages 5-18 talking about what beauty means to them. Once you have finished, think about the following questions and try to answer them with your group. Remember: it’s easier to feel good about yourself when you surround yourself with people who are supportive and who love you for who you naturally are.

    • Question 1: What are the top 10 things that you like about yourself that are not related to how much you weigh or what you look like?
    • Question 2: What are some compliments you can give yourself to combat negative thoughts?
    • Question 3: What is one thing you like about someone else in the group that doesn’t relate to their weight or appearance?
    • Question 4: After everything you’ve learned, what is one thing you’d tell your younger self?

    For your listening pleasure: a playlist!:

    Here (this link opens the playlist on YouTube) is the playlist for this month!

    Find the Photoshop:

    We are going to practice becoming a more critical viewer of media messages in our activity this month. Watch this video and play along at home as my friends and I play Find the Photoshop. Pay attention to the images that make you feel bad about yourself, why they make you feel bad about yourself, and protest them!


    Works Cited

    Wilson, Emily. “Women: A Quick Reminder ... The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Oct. 2005, www.theguardian.com/books/2005/oct/18/classics.shopping.

    Radin, Sara. “Five LGBTQ People on What Makeup Means to Them.” Dazed, 30 Mar. 2018, www.dazeddigital.com/life-culture/article/39535/1/five-lgbtq-people-on-….

    I Know How to Love Me: Relationships!

    Real Talk: Healthy Relationships

    Content Warning:

    This module is focused on relationships, on identifying certain behaviors that may be healthy or unhealthy in relationships with friends and romantic partners. We encourage you to practice self-care when determining whether or not to participate in this module. If this module causes some things to come up for you about your own experiences, or experiences that those you know maybe are having, there are resources available to you. Resources are available on the Love is Respect website at https://www.loveisrespect.org/, and on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website at https://www.thehotline.org/. There are also resources available for those in the LGBTQ+ community on the Bucket Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO) website at http://bravo.equitashealth.org/, and for those in the Athens, Ohio, area on the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program at https://www.saopseoh.org/. Additional resources can be found below in the Resources section.


    When we think about the wide variety of relationships we have in our lives —relationships with friends, teachers, siblings, or romantic partners— it’s important to practice healthy behaviors in all of them, not just the romantic ones. Platonic relationships with those in our support team can be just, if not more, meaningful.

    Our friends have often been in our lives longer than romantic partners and will probably stick around for longer too. My longest friendship has been going strong for fifteen years now, while my longest romantic relationship has lasted around two. Our friends also see us through many stages in our lives while a romantic partner might only see us in a single stage. There is also less pressure in platonic relationships than romantic ones, they love you no matter what.

    “Real Talk: Healthy Relationships” is written above images of a variety of different characters interacting with each other through chat screens. Hearts surround them all.

    It’s natural for friends and partners to come and go in our lives as we grow, but at the end of the day, the relationship we have with ourselves is forever. That’s why cultivating a positive relationship with yourself is so important. In fact, the cornerstone to every healthy relationship is loving yourself first.  But what do you do if you don’t have this positive relationship with yourself?

    The first place you can start is building your self-esteem. According to Merriam-Webster, self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself (“Self-Esteem.”). In other words, self-respect. In some cases, building this self-respect may take time. Never fear, Niko is here. Watch Niko Everett’s TEDxYouth talk on building self-esteem to get started (hyperlink opens the video on YouTube).

    My top takeaway from Niko is that I need to meet myself. One thing about myself that I am proud of is my work here! I also want to start implementing her idea where every time I have a positive thought about myself, I turn the volume up in my brain. Then every time I have a negative feeling about myself, I delete it from my brain.

    The best friend of self-esteem is confidence. They work hand-in-hand to help you believe in yourself and your abilities. If you need a little confidence boost, check out Amy Adkins’ three tips to boost your confidence (hyperlink opens the video). When we have this positive relationship with ourselves and our self-esteem and confidence are boosted, it’s easier for us to advocate for our needs in other relationships, so make sure to look at the Listen, Learn, Discuss section below if you need another confidence boost.

    Important Note from Taylor:

    No matter what, you deserve to be treated well by others. While we are entering this conversation acknowledging the importance of a positive relationship with yourself, you don’t have to believe in yourself yet to deserve respect and care from others. Self-esteem and confidence are just tools you can use to build positive relationships with those around you. I myself still work with a therapist every other week to learn how to build my self-esteem. It is never your fault if you are being abused. Now, back to the module.​​​​


    Having healthy friendships is also very important. Friends are there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on, they help you become the person you want to be and are overall just nice to spend time with. They don’t intentionally cause you stress, gossip about you behind your back or use you.

    For me personally, I think it can be harder to identify hurtful or harmful behaviors in our friendships than in romantic relationships. To help you learn more about unhealthy versus healthy behaviors in friendships, watch this video by teen therapist Mallory Grimste. If you're worried one of your friends might be acting problematically, you can also check out this video where Grimste explains some warning signs for toxic friendships (hyperlinks open videos on YouTube).

    Now let’s talk about relationships with our romantic partners. What makes a romantic relationship healthy versus unhealthy? Some warning signs that you might be in an abusive relationship, according to the Love is Respect Website (hyperlink opens the website), are if your partner calls you names when they’re angry, if they’re always jealous when you hang out with others, or if they want you to spend all your time with them and never let you see anyone else. They may also try to make you do things that you don’t want to and struggle with taking no for an answer.

      When we talk about healthy relationships, we often discuss these as “red flags.” But what are the good things people should look for in a partner?  I spoke with some of my colleagues at the Women’s Center and they gave me a list of green flags for you to consider:

    • They listen attentively and offer help when you need it.
    • They make time for you.
    • They ask you how you feel.
    • They encourage you to follow your passions.
    • They take responsibility for their actions.
    • There’s no need to constantly be with or always texting/talking to each other.
    • They’re excited about the things you are excited about.
    • You feel safe when you are alone with them.
    • We communicate our needs and boundaries.

    A common theme of these green flags is communication. Good communication is very important in a relationship. But not everyone communicates love the same way. According to The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (hyperlink opens the book’s website), there are five different ways people prefer to express and receive love. Do you and your partner speak the same love language?

    A woman is surrounded by five red hearts, each containing the name of a love language and a small icon that represents it. The love languages are physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, gifts and acts of service.

    Although no relationship is perfect, no relationship should ever make you feel scared or shameful. Instead, they should make you feel loved and supported. However, if a relationship is making you feel scared or shameful, there are resources available in the resource section below. I hope you are better able to make the decision about what relationships in your life are beneficial for you with the help of the Young Leader Empowerment Series.



    I’ve had my fair share of breakups in my life. I have had breakups with boyfriends and best friends. I’ve also had breakups with dreams and career aspirations. The main thing that I’ve learned from all these experiences is that they are all equally hard (I even think I’ve been more upset after losing friends than after losing romantic partners).

    I once had a best friend who I did almost everything with, we practically grew up together. I loved her very much and even learned a lot from her over the years, but one day I realized that she was not a very good influence on me. Even though we were friends for almost six years, I realized that our friendship was no longer good for me. We weren’t encouraging each other to be the best versions of ourselves. We broke up.

    I’m going to channel my wonderful therapist for some advice to give to you if you’ve gone through something similar. Losing people in your life that may have been very important to you at some point is always going to be tough, but sometimes it’s for the best. Not many relationships last forever, and that’s okay. I like to think that people are in our lives for specific seasons and specific reasons.  Each person that walks into our lives carries a life lesson for us. Just because you may not be friends with someone anymore doesn’t mean you can’t still cherish the good times you had with them and the ways the shaped your personality for the better.

    If you want to hear more people’s perspectives, listen to this podcast (link opens the podcast) from YR Media called Adult ISH. In this episode, the hosts Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen talk about breakups —friend breakups, romantic breakups, and breaking up with your dream job. (Go ahead and skip to about 9 minutes in to bypass a long intro.)


    four boxes, one large and the others smaller, appear over a background of orange and pink bubbles. The larger box reads, “Shoutout to the people in my support team!” and the other three boxes below are left blank for people to fill them in.

    The good relationships we have with people are often also people who are members of our support teams. Who’s on your support team? These people could be friends, family, teachers —anyone in your life who you think can support you in making important decisions.

    Support teams are important for a variety of different reasons. If you read this module and now need advice about a relationship in your life, talking to someone in your support team could be very helpful. If you’ve recently gone through a breakup, your support team will probably be instrumental in helping you recover. These people are trustworthy individuals whose advice you trust. They are there for you in your time of need —not just when it comes to relationship advice— and you probably are the same for them.

    Once you’ve done some brainstorming of who is in your support team, download and fill out this Instagram graphic to show your appreciation for your support team!

    Watch, Learn, Discuss:

    Watch the video below where Brittany Packnett talks about her journey with confidence and gives her tips on building confidence in yourself and sparking it in others. When you’re done, answer the following questions together.

    • Question 1: Which confident person do you aspire to be like when you grow up? Who is your Septima Clark?
    • Question 2: How do we reward confidence in some people and punish it in others?
    • Question 3: What communities do you call on when you’re afraid?

    Brittany Packnett: How to build your confidence -- and spark it in others

    For Your Listening Pleasure: A Playlist:

    Here (this link opens the playlist on YouTube) is the playlist for this month!

    The Girl-Power Crafting Hour:

    We’re bringing back the Girl-Power Crafting Hour to create valentines for ourselves! Think about ten things you like about yourself. These things should be about your personality, not about your appearance. Once you’re done, put them around your living area so you can always see them and remind yourself how amazing you are.

    Bonus: Make some to give to your support team members!

    • Materials list:
      • Paper, canvas, or anything else you can draw on.
      • Writing utensils such as pencils, markers, paint, and colored pencils.
      • Get creative! Find things around your house you can use to make your masterpiece. This could be cutouts from magazines, glitter, even uncooked macaroni noodles.

    Works Cited

    “Self-Esteem.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-esteem.


    Caring for Your Imperfectly Perfect Self

    An honest discussion about mental health and perfectionism.

    Content Warning:

    This module is focused on mental health and perfectionism. We encourage you to practice self-care when determining whether or not to participate in this module. If this module causes some things to come up for you about your own experiences, or experiences that those you know maybe are having, there are resources available to you. Resources are available on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also visit the National Alliance on Mental Health’s website to find resources for youth, including information on managing your mental health and making friends at www.nami.org/Find-Support/Teens-and-Young-Adults. LGBTQIA+ individuals can find crisis intervention services on the Trevor Project’s website at www.thetrevorproject.org. You can also call 1-866-7386 or text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-204-1200. Additional resources can be found below in the Resources section.


    Our mental health determines how we think, act, and feel. It can affect not only our personality, but our bodies, too. When people are struggling with their mental health, they may feel overly tired, struggle with headaches and/or experience issues with food. That’s why it is so important to talk about mental health and bring awareness to mental illness.

    For some, talking about mental illness can be nerve wracking. Personally, it took a long time for me to tell anyone I was struggling with my anxiety because I was afraid that people would see me as different. But the truth is a lot of people struggle with their mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (hyperlink opens their website), nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness (“Mental Illness”). If you are struggling with your own mental health, please know that you’re not alone.

    Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (“Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA”). It affects 25.1% of people between 13 and 18 years old. But even though anxiety is so common and highly treatable, not a lot of people receive treatment. Watch this video (hyperlink opens the video on YouTube) where a teen named Rose talks about her social anxiety and how therapy helped her.

    Anxiety disorders can stem from a lot of different factors, including genetics, brain chemistry and life events. Symptoms include feeling nervous, irritable or on edge, having difficulty concentrating and having trouble sleeping, among others. These symptoms can cause people to perform poorly in school, miss out on social experiences and abuse substances.

    Why do you think women are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men? I believe it has something to do with the way girls are socialized. For example, young girls are taught to be perfect, while young boys are taught to be brave. This means that men are socialized to take risks while women are socialized to be afraid of failure. This social construction of how we are supposed to behave is described by Reshma Saujani in her book Brave, Not Perfect. We will look at how she describes the perils of perfectionism in the “Learn” and “Watch, Learn, Discuss!” section of this module.

    Despite what you may have been told, it is okay to fail, and failure can even be good! At the Women’s Center, we start our staff meetings each week going around telling what we accomplished and what we failed at. Some mistakes from last week include missing an important meeting and sending out a mass email incorrectly. Talking about this normalizes failure and taking risks, and it also helps the rest of us not make the same mistakes. I encourage all of you to go out into the world and be unapologetically afraid to fail.

    Recently when I get asked in job interviews what my biggest strength is, I tell them that it’s my bravery. I always try to push myself to do things I’m afraid of. I figure that most fears are just future skills in disguise. For example: I was really shy in middle school.  So, once I got into high school, I tried out for the school play. I didn’t get the part I wanted, but it didn’t matter; I stayed in theater for the rest of high school and made amazing memories and friends. Learning how to be comfortable speaking in front of a huge crowd even prepared me to work at the Women’s Center where I have introduced key-note speakers and spoken on panels for diversity and inclusion.

    It’s also common for people with anxiety to also have depression, according to Anxiety and Depression Association of America (“Depression: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA”). Everyone feels sad sometimes, but people with depression feel persistently sad over a long period of time. Depression is also more common in women than in men. The symptoms also look different for women than men, and those symptoms also change based on age, but include feeling “empty” or hopeless, losing interest in things you used to like, and fatigue.

    If you think you may be suffering from depression, fill out the questions in this screening from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (hyperlink opens the screening). Once you’re done, print it out and share with your doctor. You can also use other resources as well. Talk with your guidance counselor at school, or use your support team to identify other resources local to you.

    I think it’s important to think about your mental health the same way you would about your physical health. If you’re sick, you rest, stay hydrated and take medicine to help your body recover. You must take care of your brain just like you would the rest of your body. Safespace (hyperlink takes you to their website) offers a few different tips for teens to take care of their mental wellbeing. These include getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising.

    It also includes one of my favorite tips for dealing with anxiety: using breathing techniques! My favorite technique is something called “box breathing” (hyperlink opens an article explaining the technique). The idea is that whenever you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, you can use the technique to relieve anxiety and concentrate. You take a deep breath in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds and then exhale for four seconds.

    This also connects me to my support team. My team knows that when I start to panic, I try to begin box breathing to calm myself down.  But sometimes it isn’t always easy to tell myself to breathe in the heat of the moment. Because of that, many members of my support team will start box breathing to encourage me to.

    Let’s be real: the last year (2020-2021) has been extremely stressful. Even people who may never have experienced mental health issues before may have experienced them throughout this last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some may feel very disconnected from their support team because of all the quarantining and physical distancing.

    Even while physically distant from some, you are never alone. At the end of the day, you always have yourself to rely on for comfort and support. That’s why you must be your own biggest supporter. Make sure you have a list of coping mechanisms at your disposal when you need them... A list kind of like the one I’ve created for you in this module!


    If you’re feeling anxious, close your eyes and listen to this 10-minute guided meditation.

    Learn: The Perils of Perfectionism

    Wanting to do your best and challenging yourself to take risks is a great thing. Sometimes taking risks can result in failure, but what’s wrong with that? Our failures often teach us amazing lessons.

    Wanting to be perfect all the time can be very harmful. Humans are inherently flawed creatures; no one is perfect. Women are especially expected to be perfect in our society. We must always dress and act perfectly —but what does that mean? It is a totally unattainable goal that ultimately can be very unrewarding and anxiety inducing.

    Looking “perfect” just means that you are ascribing to whatever standards of beauty society are forcing upon you at that given time. But these standards of beauty are constantly changing throughout time and cultures and rarely ever apply to men. When female actresses age, they are told they must use cosmetics and surgery to make them look young again, while male actors are considered “silver foxes.” There is no way to always fit every standard, but society wants women to think that they must bend over backward to look “perfect” all the time.

    Women are also socialized to act perfectly all the time. From a young age, we are taught that “boys will be boys,” a saying that is essentially a gendered get-out-of –jail-free card for any poor behavior a guy might exhibit. The same is not true for women. Women are taught that they must constantly be on their best behavior. Think about how often you apologize in your day-to-day life. The other day, I said sorry to a chair I ran into in my house.

    When I was middle school, I was very concerned about always getting perfect grades. I thought that if I didn’t get all A’s my parents would love me less. This produced a lot of school-related anxiety that followed me through my middle school and high school careers. I had to learn that my self-worth was not directly connected to my report card; getting a bad grade did not make me any less deserving of love. I was still the same compassionate and creative person I had been all along.

    But don’t take my word for it. Watch the video below from York St John University about the downside of perfectionism and learn some tips on how you can combat perfectionism in your own life!

    Watch, Learn, Discuss!:

    Watch the TED Talk “Teach Girls Bravery, not Perfection” where Reshma Saujani talks about how we teach girls to be perfect while we teach boys to be brave. When you’re done, answer the following questions with your support group.

    • Question 1: Think about your own life. Has there ever been a time when you exercised bravery? Explain.
    • Question 2: How can you help build a sisterhood where girls know they are not alone in their struggles?
    • Question 3: Are there any dreams that you are deferring because you are uncomfortable with imperfection? What are steps you can take to make these dreams a reality?

    For your listening pleasure: a playlist!:

    Here (this link opens the playlist on YouTube) is the playlist for this month!


    I am doing a classic “day in the life” style video for the activity this week. I will be trying a bunch of self-care techniques that were suggested to me by my coworkers at the Women’s Center and giving my honest review of all of them. Hopefully, this video will give you some inspiration for ways to practice self-care in your own life!


    Resources in Athens, Ohio:

    Works Cited

    “Depression: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Depression | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 17 Feb. 2021, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/depression.

    “Facts & Statistics: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.” Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 17 Feb. 2021, adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics.

    “Mental Illness.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Jan. 2021, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml.

    How to be a Social (Media) Butterfly

    The Many Ways We Can Use Social Media 

    A Mini Message from Taylor 

    Interested in hopping to a specific Mini Module? Click the links to "jump" to one of the three! 

    Mini Module 1: Your Online Persona

    Mini Module 2: Social Media and Activism

    Mini Module 3: Safety

    Mini Module 1: Your Online Persona 

    How do I represent myself online?


    What is your online persona? In other words, who are you when you’re on social media? (Hyperlink opens a video where teens discuss how they use their social media.) Some people use social media to connect with friends, family, identity groups and online communities, some people use it to promote themselves, and others just use it for the memes.  

    I asked some of my colleagues at the Women’s Center how they use social media. Here are their responses:  

    • “I use social media to stay connected with my friends, stay up to date on the happenings of the world, and figure out what news I need to read/watch.” - Rhianna 
    • “I use social media to kill time and stay connected with people.” - Hailey  
    • “I use social media because of work. It’s important to connect people with the Women’s Center, and topics/issues that relate to our mission. If it wasn’t for work, I may not have a social media account.” - Dr. Murray 
    • “I would say that I mainly use social media to see what’s going on in my friends’ and family’s lives more so than anything. I personally don’t post anything, but I like to look and see what others have shared.” - Makenzie 

    I personally love using social media to discover new activities, people, and subjects. I recently started using YouTube to watch Yoga with Adriene (hyperlink opens Adriene’s channel on YouTube) so that I don’t have to pay for an expensive membership to a yoga studio. I use Spotify to listen to The Daily (hyperlink opens the podcast on Spotify), a podcast from the New York Times, to keep up on current events and news. I use Instagram to follow artists that inspire me, like South African visual activist Zanele Muholi (hyperlink opens her profile on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/muholizanele/). But my favorite way to utilize social media is for activism, which I will discuss in another mini module. While there are all these great ways to use social media, there can also be some pitfalls to using the apps.  

    Taylor sits on her floor, cross legged and hands on her knees. She is meditating in her living room while watching Yoga with Adriene.

    The photos above and below show me following a Yoga with Adriene video for the Mental Health and Perfectionism module. 

    Taylor is in the “downward dog” yoga position as she does yoga in her living room while watching Yoga with Adriene.

    What is social currency?  

    Social currency is the idea that likes, comments, and retweets act like a form of currency that is exchanged over social media. Those with the most interactions are the “wealthiest.” This form of external validation can be bad when you are not receiving internal validation as well. I urge you to remember that the number of likes, shares, or comments you get on a social media post does not define who you are as a person. You can challenge these negative ideas by using affirmations to validate yourself instead of looking somewhere else for validation. 

    Instagram recently announced they will allow users on Instagram and Facebook to hide their like counts from other users. If that is something you are interested in doing, here is an article to explain how it works (hyperlink opens an article on Instagram’s website). 

    Can social currency be used for good? 

    Although the concept that people who get more likes on their posts are somehow better than those who don’t get as many is completely arbitrary, social currency can also help us understand the way in which our social media engagement can help us in creating and maintaining a professional presence. You can use it to network with different professionals in the field of your choosing, and you can use it to promote the work you’re doing that you’re proud of.  

    You can also get connected to professionals who you may not have been able to meet otherwise, like those who may not be commonly represented in the field (hyperlink opens an article by The Conversation).  

    But does my online image really matter? 

    While creating and maintaining this professional digital image, it’s important to remember that everything you put on the internet will be there forever. If you don’t believe that, try Googling yourself and see what you find (many colleges and jobs are doing this anyway when they receive applications from you). Then watch this TEDxYouth video (video below) where Amber Quinney talks about how she uses social media to her advantage, and what she learned from stepping away from it for six months. Amber also talks about a concept called the “highlight reel.” 

    What I learned from my social media fast | Amber Quinney | TEDxYouth@Buffalo

    What is the “highlight reel?”

    This is the idea that social media isn’t always what it seems. Everyone is posting about the best versions of themselves on Instagram, their vacations, fancy dinners, and adventures with friends - but that’s most likely not the entire picture. Sometimes when I see celebrities or influencers post about their amazing lives, I have to remind myself that they also have greasy hair sometimes and stay in bed to watch Netflix all day. 

    Filters also contribute to the highlight real. Filters and editing apps can sometimes perpetuate unhealthy beauty standards that are physically impossible to live up to. Although there is nothing wrong with using filters, it is important to be able to recognize that some people may be editing their photos.  

    Here (hyperlink opens the account on Instagram) is an account that displays edited photos of celebrities next to their unedited photos to show the power of photoshop. Emily Clarkson (link opens to her Instagram page) who uses her Instagram account to showcase how photo editing can completely change your reality. The video shows her editing herself to be tanner, have whiter teeth, and even look older to show how drastic photo editing can be.  

    I often must remind myself that a lot of influencer’s photos are the product of good lighting, editing and strategic poses. I would look the same way in the same circumstances. And even if I didn’t, so what?  

    What did we learn?  

    The internet is an incredible resource to spend time in a virtual format with the people and things you love most. You can watch videos on YouTube about a topic you’re passionate about or talk to your family on Facebook.  

    The internet is also an incredible resource to discover things you may not have ever known existed. That is exactly why I am challenging you to a Social Media Scavenger Hunt for the “Learn” section of this module. The goal is for you to discover new places on the internet you can go to cultivate positive experiences. Below is an Instagram stories graphic for you to fill out and post after you’ve completed the activity, as well as some examples completed by my fellow Women’s Center staffers. Happy hunting!  

    An Instagram stories-type fill in the blank activity. The text reads, “Social Media Scavenger Hunt Tag the Instagram account of someone who... makes me happy, inspires me, is an incredible artist, is a great friend, is a great activist, is my favorite performer, makes me laugh, is my hero.”
    Daniela’s social media scavenger hunt example.
    Nadia’s social media scavenger hunt example.
















    Mini Module 2: Social Media and Activism 

    How can I use social media to promote social change? 


    There are so many great ways to use your presence on social media. One of my favorite ways is to promote social change and to be an active participant in social justice movements. I think social media is a fantastic tool for young activists because it allows them to show their support of movements that may be thousands of miles away from them. Here is an article about 6 youth-led political movements to inspire you (hyperlink opens the article). The internet is also a great resource for people to access information about different activist movements and different social issues they might not be intimately familiar with. You can also share this information with your online friends and take part in consciousness raising in your own community.  

    While we will be discussing the benefits of social media, we also want to acknowledge some of the downsides. Social media can be an incredible resource for people following tragic events, but it can also be misused. Listen to this short podcast clip (hyperlink opens an article that includes the podcast at the end) from a panel discussion on media, tech and social justice. The 2015 panel featured Susan Simpson (Undisclosed), Jackie Zammuto (WITNESS), Carmen Perez (Justice League NYC) and Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer (Global Citizen) discussing how social media can be both beneficial and problematic in the wake of tragic events.  

    This clip in particular features Brandon Blackburn-Dwyer, who talks about how social media encouraged people to perform incredible acts of kindness after the 2015 Paris attacks, but also how they have the potential to cause a lot of harm as well, e.g. extremist groups using social media to find like-minded people and coordinate attacks. Feel free to listen to the rest of the panel discussion by clicking on the blue play button at the bottom right corner of the clip to open the podcast’s page. 

    Can I really make a difference on social media? 

    A screenshot of a tweet that reads, “Wuddup, I’m opening up my commissions! All you have to do is send me a screenshot of your donation to a #BlackLivesMatter fund of your choosing and I’ll paint ya somethin. DM for more info” Below are four photos of paintings.

    During the Black Lives Matter protests last summer (2020), I felt powerless to help. I couldn’t go and show my support by attending any protests because of concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus. Instead, I went on Instagram and told my followers, via the “stories” feature, that I would paint them anything they wanted if they donated to a Black Lives Matter fund of their choosing. I ended up raising a couple hundred dollars for BLM funds across the United States, and I also felt a sense of agency that I hadn’t before (one of the paintings I created is pictured below). 

    This is a perfect example that activism and advocacy look different for everyone based on our abilities. Some may be able to donate funds, while some can share information with our networks on social media. Some of us may be able to march in protests, while some take their friends to different community organizing events. There is not one “right way” to be an advocate, there are so many ways to contribute! 

    A painting of pink and orange poppies with green stems twisting together on a plain black background. This is one of the paintings I did to raise money for the Black Lives Matter Movement

    Where do I start? 

    I encourage you to watch this video from CBC News (hyperlink opens the video on YouTube) about how teen activists are using social media. After you watch the video, read the questions below and answer them with those around you. 


    1. Who is a social justice activist you are inspired by? What is a topic or social justice movement that you feel passionately about? 
    2. How have you seen people your own age make a difference and impact by utilizing social media? 
    3. How can you use your social media platform to advocate for the causes you are passionate about? 

    How teen activists are mobilizing using social media | The Weekly with Wendy Mesley 

    What did we learn? 

    It is important to remember to make sure that the content you create or share has intentional meaning behind it. Otherwise, you may be contributing to performative activism. Performative activism is very surface level —it has more to do with the individual than with the actual cause they are promoting. The motivations behind performative activism are to increase one's own social capital, a concept we talk about in the Your Online Persona Mini Module. It means posting content on social media so that others might think you’re “woke” without contributing in any meaningful way or changing your own viewpoint.  

    Social media can be an incredible resource to promote social change if used properly. Many of the world’s largest activist organizations have been created by youth, just like you. But you don’t have to start out your social media activism journey by creating a national organization. You can start small, just like I did with my twitter campaign to paint for the Black Lives Matter movement. Any amount of energy that you put into a cause that you care about is valuable energy well spent, as long as you have the right intentions and are listening and amplifying the voices of those impacted and doing the work. 

    Is there an activity for this module? 

    Yes, there is! Here is a worksheet for you to fill out (link opens to the worksheet). I want you to do research into an activist of your choice. Find out where they’re from, what causes they’ve been involved in, etc. Then I want you to do more research into the causes they were involved in to get a better understanding of their work. Pay special attention to who was involved in these causes and who was not, plus any critiques of the causes, organizations, or individuals and, most importantly, have fun! 

    Mini Module 3: Social Media Safety 

    How can I protect myself on social media? 


    No matter how you chose to use social media, whether it be for business or pleasure, I encourage you to be proactive in your privacy settings on each platform you use. Here is an article that explains how to set privacy settings on a multitude of different platforms (hyperlink opens the article). Here are articles to explain how to set privacy settings on Tiktok and Snapchat (hyperlinks open the articles, respectively). Setting your accounts to private and managing who can view your stories can be very beneficial. However, always remember privacy always has its limits, so it’s important to remember that even if you’re private, people can still potentially see your posts from screenshots. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

    Another thing to keep in mind is to never share your password with anyone other than a trusted adult or guardian. You never have to share your password with someone that you date or someone that you are friends with to gain their trust; trust should be established outside of social media. Your partner also should have no control over what, when, or how you post on your social media.

    A cartoon hand clicks a smartphone. Text bubbles and “like” notifications sit next to the phone. The words, “Social media safety” are written at the top.

    What should I do if I’m being bullied online?  

    The first thing you should always do if you are being bullied, both online and in person, is to tell a trusted adult. This is also important if you see someone else being bullied, which we will discuss further down below. They can really help you when dealing with the complex emotions that you may be feeling, and/or help get the bullying to stop. Stopbullying.gov also has a lot of resources available for both kids and adults when they are dealing with bullying, so feel free to check out that website here if you ever need advice (hyperlink opens the website). 

    What if I don’t want to be confrontational? 

    One effective way to deal with bullies online is to simply block them. If you block them, they no longer have access to your profile. They will not receive a notification that you’ve blocked them and can only see if they try to look up your profile, so there is also limited confrontation involved in this step. You can also mute accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Here is an article on how to do that on all three platforms (hyperlink opens the article). Users will not be able to see that they are muted at all, but you will no longer see their posts on your feed.  

    What should I do if I see someone else being bullied online? 

    Stand up for others. Again, you can always tell a trusted adult who can help you deescalate the situation. Outside of the online world, you can also make sure that they know they’re not alone. Sit with them at lunch, hang out with them at recess, and invite them to participate in activities. Feeling included can go a long way to help someone who is being bullied. Visit this website for more information on how to stick up for others (hyperlink opens stopbullying.gov). 

    How do I deal with backlash from activist work? 

    Putting yourself out there to advocate for a cause that you are passionate about can lead to trolls, or someone who posts rude things online to provoke others, engaging with your posts on social media. As always, let your guardian or trusted adult know if someone is engaging with you in a negative way on social media. You can also block them, mute them, or ignore them, just like any other person on social media. There is also the option to report those who are being abusive. Internet abuse can look like many different things, like using hate speech, posting your personal information without your consent, or making you feel bad about yourself. Here is an article that explains how to report trolls on social media (hyperlink opens the article). 

    Three people look at their phones while hearts and thumbs pointing down float in the air above them. The words, “dealing with trolls” is written at the top.

    You are not obligated to defend your opinions on social media with people who are simply trying to make you feel bad. A lot of trolls are not interested in having a serious, civil conversation with you and only want to cause you emotional distress, so it's best to avoid them at all costs.  

    If you are going through a tough time dealing with backlash from activist work, remember why you are doing it in the first place. The good of the cause may give you all the motivation you need to continue with your work. If you are still struggling, reach out to your support system for help. And remember that if it’s too much for you to handle, there are always different ways to engage in activism that might suit you better! Check out our mini module on social media and activism for more ideas.  

    A closing message from Taylor:  

    YLES Goes Back to School!

    Tips and tricks to make this the best school year yet!

    school supplies for title slide saying "Back to School with the Young Leader Empowerment Series"

    (Alt-Text: “Back to School with the Young Leader Empowerment Series!” is written on a piece of paper. Two cartoon pencils, a pencil sharpener, an eraser and three paperclips all sit on top of the piece of paper as though someone has just set them down in the middle of a thought.) 

    Hello, young leaders! Welcome to a new school year. If you are reading this at the time of publishing, you are going back to school after the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world as we knew it. Things probably look a lot different when it comes to school and social interactions for you now, but do not fret, the Young Leader Empowerment Series is here to help you through a difficult transition.  

    Speaking for myself, I have found it a little harder than usual to get back into the swing of school. I’m used to sitting in my home working on class, all on my lonesome. To top it all off, there is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now. Here is a video that I like about how to cope with uncertainty (hyperlink opens the video). Check it out!  

    I am also pretty much having to learn how to make friends all over again. Sometimes, these new social interactions can be very anxiety inducing, causing you to potentially feel nervous, sweaty or even shakey when talking to people. Here are some tips that I have learned about dealing with social anxiety through the years.  

    Tips for dealing with social anxiety! 

    1. Start small. There is no competition here. Start by talking to one person before immersing yourself in a large group of people.  
    2. Bring backup. If you’re worried about going somewhere new and meeting new people, bring a trusted member of your support group with you. They can really help calm your nerves, but make sure that you don’t only rely on them while you’re trying to make new friends! 
    3. Breathe. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember to breathe. There is no shame in stepping away to take a pause and try some breathing exercises. Here is a video that walks you through some breathing exercises (hyperlink opens the video on YouTube).   

    Making friends can be a daunting task in the best of times, but even more so after a lockdown. If you’re worried about seeing people face-to-face, make sure that you are setting boundaries for yourself. If you’re not comfortable hanging out in large groups, you don’t have to. And, if you want some more advice about friendships, check out our previous module, I Know How To Love Me: Relationships! (hyperlink opens the Young Leader Empowerment Series page). 

    On the other hand, it can be really hard being separated from the ones we love. Watch this video from Headspace about how to deal with this separation (hyperlink opens the video). You can also view this video on different ways you can support your community through these hard times from a safe distance.  

    So, You Caught COVID-19. Now What?

    Not only can testing positive for COVID-19 leave people feeling sick, it can also leave people with feelings of anxiety and guilt. On top of that, a study of adults who survived COVID-19 said that women are also more likely to experience negative mental health effects after getting sick (Mazza, Mario Gennaro, et al.)(hyperlink opens the study). 

    I know when I got sick, I felt like I had done something wrong, even though I had done everything in my power to keep myself from getting sick. I was also very anxious about giving it to those around me. If you have COVID-19, I want you to know that it’s is not your fault. You could have done everything right, just like I did, and still have gotten it.  

    I also want you to know that you are not alone. There are many ways that you can continue to reach out to your support group, including social media, FaceTime and messaging. There are also many things you can do to keep you from getting bored, like: reading, “going” to the movies, having a board game tournament, learning a new recipe, visiting a museum virtually, and  having a craft night! 

    I hope that this is in some way comforting to you. I also hope that you enjoy the rest of our module! 

    Apart from the social aspect of school, there is also the academic aspect, of course. I talked with some of my colleagues at the Women’s Center about some of their best back-to-school tips and tricks. Check them out below!  

     “The Women’s Center’s Back to School Tips and Tricks is written on a computer screen. The computer is sitting on a cartoon wood desk with a pencil holder and plant sitting next to it on the desk.

    (Alt-text: “The Women’s Center’s Back to School Tips and Tricks is written on a computer screen. The computer is sitting on a cartoon wood desk with a pencil holder and plant sitting next to it on the desk.) 

    • AANYA: 1) Talk to your peers in class! A smile/good word goes a long way in making friends! 2) Never be afraid to stand up for yourself. 3) When you need help, ask for it! Don't feel shy or embarrassed. The entire class could maybe want the answer to the same question!  
    • RJ: When I was in Middle school, a thousand years ago, there were a lot of changes and events that occurred that made it seem overwhelming at times. A tip I would say is to live for yourself. You will be living in this body and this soul for the rest of your life, and you should involve yourself in things that can strengthen it. Don’t force people or friends into your life, let them come to you!  
    • Hailey: My back-to-school tip is to keep a planner! It doesn’t need to be fancy. It’s okay if you abandon the planner for a period of time – you can always come back to it. At the beginning of the year, write down all your big due dates, and then you can fill in the smaller stuff as you go. My other tip is for when you are feeling overwhelmed, make a list of every single thing you have to / want to do. This list can include everything from huge school projects to remembering to text someone back. For me, it’s helpful to have everything in one place that’s not my brain. 
    • Mo: Make sure you have a designated time to do the work for your online classes! This will help you stay on top of your work. Also, being a part of a bunch of extracurriculars can be fun but overwhelming, so make sure to be a part of organizations that you see yourself being involved in for a long time. This shows passion and dedication and will be extremely fulfilling as well! 
    • Gabbie: If you are given an essay assignment—make an outline of important points your teacher wants you to make in your essay. It reduces the overwhelming feeling you’ll have and give you a head start into what you should be looking for/writing about. 
    • Kaia: My advice for students starting a new school year is to utilize whatever method of organization works best for you and to try to maintain that practice during the year. I personally enjoy writing in a planner so that I can physically write down the tasks I need to complete. I also find it helpful to sit down at the beginning of the week on either Sunday or Monday to plan out the coming week. 
    • Abby: Organize your planner with work, classes, and projects as soon as you get them. This makes it so much easier to stay on top of deadlines and tasks! Also, be forgiving to yourself. It's hard to get back in the groove of school! 
    • Re'Aija: When you get quiz/text scores back and see anything you get wrong, ask the teacher why you got it wrong to prevent getting it wrong in the future. They will appreciate you coming to them! 
    • Mady: My piece of advice is to step outside and get a little fresh air every day! It’s more than okay to walk away from your homework for 5 minutes and take some deep breaths. Your brain needs it! 

    The bedrock of all good back-to-school practices is sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain will have a harder time functioning throughout the rest of the day. Something that really affects sleep is our circadian rhythm, which is kind of like our body’s natural clock. It lets us know when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.  

    The circadian rhythm is highly affected by light. That’s why it is really important to be exposed to plenty of light throughout the day, letting our bodies know it is daytime, time to be awake! 

    Technology also has a huge impact on our circadian rhythm and can even set it off balance. The blue light that comes off our phone screens can trick the brain into thinking that it is still daytime. This article from Healthline recommends wearing blue-light-blocking glasses or even staying off our phones two hours before we go to bed to get better sleep. The same article also has many more tips (like reducing caffeine intake late into the day and regulating the temperature in your bedroom) for you to take a look at! You can also check out the “Learn” section below to learn about the benefits of a good night’s sleep.  

    I hope this module has made you more prepared to start the new school year. The Young Leaders Empowerment Series is always here to help. Come back to this module, or our other modules, if you ever need a refresher course. Remember, you’ve got this! 


    I’m back with another amazing podcast for you to listen to! This is an episode from the podcast “It’s A Teen Thing.” This episode tackles what it’s like being a teen during COVID-19. I hope that hearing what these two have to say about their own experience can make you feel better about your own. From the website: “Being a teenager is rough. COVID is also rough. We've been given a strange honor of being a COVID teen, which may not have been what we wanted, but let’s face it and figure out how to keep developing our personality while not worrying about what's going on. Tune in and find out how you can conquer being a COVID teen.”  



    Poor sleep can influence many different parts of your life. It can impact your hormones and even your brain function. Watch this video from Shai Marcu about how sleep affects our memory and restructures our brain while discussing the seemingly simple scenario: “It’s 4am, and the big test is in 8 hours. You’ve been studying for days, but you still don’t feel ready. Should you drink another cup of coffee and spend the next few hours cramming? Or should you go to sleep?” 

    The benefits of a good night's sleep - Shai Marcu 


    Watch, Learn, Discuss! 

    Sit down with your support group and watch this short video from Christine Carter on the 1-minute secret to forming a new habit. After you’re done, take a moment to think about the information provided and then answer the questions together below!  

    Christine Carter: The 1-minute secret to forming a new habit


    • What new better-than-nothing behavior do you want to implement in your new routine, even when nothing goes as planned? 
    • What larger goal is that behavior helping you accomplish? 
    • What can you say to make yourself feel better if you fail?  

    For your listening pleasure: a playlist!  

    Here (this link opens the playlist on YouTube) is the playlist for this month! 


    Hello, Young leaders! In this video, I take you back in time to show you three instances in which I was woefully unprepared to start the school year. I then show you what I would do now to prevent those situations. Come time travel with me for this module’s activity!  

    Once upon a time, I forgot to buy literally any school supplies. And by once upon a time, I mean this year. I came totally unprepared to all my classes and felt like I was already being left behind. Usually, and what I suggest you do, I get a few supplies ahead of the first day so that I can at least come prepared to take notes on what else I need to get! 

    Another time, or a few other times, I decided to cram for a test instead of gradually studying throughout the week leading up to the test. I stayed up all night and felt terrible all the next day. Now, I make sure to study a little bit each day on extended period of time so I don’t burn myself out! 

    Finally, I’ve learned that instead of being on my phone before bed, I read a book! This helps me sleep better and keeps me from being tired and unable to focus throughout the day.  

    Well, that’s it for the back to school module of the Young Leaders Empowerment Series. I hope you enjoyed your time with us today and I will see you again soon! Stay well.  

    Works Cited 

    Mazza, Mario Gennaro, et al. “Anxiety and Depression in COVID-19 Survivors: Role of Inflammatory and Clinical Predictors.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Academic Press, 30 July 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889159120316068


    Face Your Fears With YLES

    What Are You Afraid Of?

    Hello, Young Leaders and welcome back to another module! This module is focused on fears. Boo! Specifically, it is focused on fears that you might face while going through middle school. The module also looks a little different this time around. We thought it might be a good idea to change some things up with the module series (if you are afraid of change, don’t worry. We covered that below. We also have a module about change coming soon).  

    First, we’re going to talk about what the Women’s Center staff was afraid of when they were in middle school. We’ll talk about food, popularity, making friends, body image, change, and peer pressure. You may not be able to relate to every fear, but my hope is that if you do have a fear that was shared by someone on our team you can feel supported in overcoming it. After that, we are going to do a lovely craft. The craft this month is an activity sheet. And before you say anything, it’s actually fun! We’re going to identify our fears and set goals to overcome them. And, if you are a returning Young Leader, you’ll be happy to know that the playlist is alive and well! Make sure to listen to it while you’re doing your craft.  

    Fears aren’t necessarily bad. They can help you grow! But they can only do this if you put in the effort to identify and face your fears. It’s completely normal to want to avoid the things you are afraid of, but avoidance keeps you from learning that our fears aren’t that scary in the light of day. The medical reason for this is that your brain, specifically the amygdala (the fear center), learns not to hold onto that fear anymore once it is habituated to it (Biali Haas, Susan).   

    “You can teach your amygdala that it doesn’t need to be afraid of something, much as you might reassure a child who is convinced there are monsters under the bed. That terrified child might not believe you if you just tell them: ‘You shouldn’t be scared, there is nothing there.’ 

    “If you prove it to them instead, using their own positive experience, they’ll be much more likely to change their belief and let go of that fear entirely.” (Biali Haas, Susan).  

    Not everyone likes to talk about their fears, but I think it’s necessary when trying to overcome them. It’s similar to how I view failures: everyone has them, and we need to normalize them more to take away their power over us. Take, for example, a fear of social interactions. If you commit to saying, “hello,” to one new person every day, even if they are a stranger walking down the street, you will most likely learn that talking to people isn’t as scary as it seems. That will give you the confidence to start making new friends and feel comfortable interacting in social situations. This process of facing your fears is called exposure (Facing Your Fears – How to do Exposure). 

    What the Women’s Center staff is afraid of: 


    Trusting yourself is something that a lot of people struggle with. Trusting yourself when it comes to food can be especially difficult. Here’s a video that talks about the importance of listening to your body when it comes to hunger and our diets. 

    "Being seen as uncool to others, what shoes I was wearing (it determined the levels of popularity you had for some reason).” 

    Sometimes, when we’re afraid of being seen as uncool to others we are more susceptible to peer pressure. In this video, teens Connor, Livia, Elenna and Josh talk about their experiences with peer pressure and give advice on how you can overcome it.  

    “Not fitting in or finding my true group of friends.” 

    Finding the perfect group of friends can be a daunting task. This video gives some tips on how to make friends and encourages you to be unafraid of getting a little silly with it. From the description, “Sometimes meeting new people can be scary. What if they're too different and we don't get along? What if things get really, really awkward? Well, Kid President says, embrace the AWKWARD!”  

    "Body image.” 

    A lot of things are probably changing right now for you during this period of your life, including your body. Here is a video that explains a little bit about what you might be experiencing.  

    “I was afraid of change (still working on this)!” 

    ME TOO! I will talk a little more about this later in the module, but change is one of my own personal fears that I’ve been working on right now. This video offers three tips to deal with transitions that happen in our lives and our relationships.  

    "I was sometimes afraid of truly being myself and what other people thought about me.” 

    Truly being yourself is an exercise in vulnerability. It shows a lot of strength. But what exactly does it mean to be yourself? Carly Sotas talks about her journey with self-love in this TEDxYouth talk.  

    The fears we all experience are based on different factors and are shaped by our unique lived experiences. Not everyone shares these fears because everyone is so different. During the activity, we’re going to work on identifying and creating steps to face the individual fears that you may have.  

    Fears are also subject to change. My fear at the time of writing this is the fear of transitions or big changes. I’m about to graduate in a couple of months and move away from home for the first time in my life. There are a lot of things in my life that are going to change all at once, which can be a little overwhelming. Something that gives me the strength to face my fears is knowing that I have an amazing support group that I can lean on whenever I feel scared or whenever I need help. I also find comfort in knowing that the reason all these changes are happening is because there are exciting opportunities waiting for me in the future! Although it can be scary for things to adjust and develop in our lives, I think it’s important to think of all the positives and possibilities these changes bring to our lives.  


    Here is the playlist for this module (hyperlink opens the playlist on YouTube)! Feel free to listen to the playlist while you’re participating in the spooky activity!  


    For this module’s activity, we’re going to be filling out an activity sheet. First, you’ll identify three fears that you want to work on. Then, you’ll set goals to face each fear. After that, it’s time to face them! You can write about how you felt while doing so. Finally, I want you to give yourself a reward for your hard work. PDF version of the worksheet can be found here and the JPG version can be found here for page 1 and page 2

    facing fears worksheet - three candies with a pumpkin bucket
    JPG Version - Part 1
    three prompts for facing fears worksheet
    JPG Version - Part 2!

    Thank you for participating in the module this month! I really hope you enjoyed it and are now better equipped to face your fears. I will see you for the next module (no spoilers)! 

    Works Cited  

    Biali Haas, Susan. “Help for Anxiety: Facing Your Fears Will Heal Your Brain.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 Aug. 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201808/help-anxiety-facing-your-fears-will-heal-your-brain

    “Facing Your Fears – How to do Exposure” - Anxiety Canada. http://anxietycanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/FacingFears_Exposure.pdf

    Maybe We Can Find a Place to Feel Good...

    ...And We Can Treat People with Kindness!


    Hello, young leaders! We’re back with another module. The topic for this module is inspired, in part, by Harry Styles: we’re going to be talking all about treating people with kindness! It’s important to be kind in order to build community with those around you — not only to have a strong personal support group, but also to create a community full of allies that all support each other. As a side note: there is a difference between being friends and being allies. It should be stated that you don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you should always treat them with respect. 

    While on the topic of allyship, I think it’s also important to talk about the difference between intent and impact. According to Healthline, “Someone’s intent is what they think or feel during an action or conversation. It’s usually the reason or motivation behind the situation,” (White, Taneasha). Impact, on the other hand, is “how that action or conversation makes the other person feel.” This is all to say that even if you don’t intend to say something offensive, you can still accidentally hurt someone's feelings. 

    I’m sure all of you have gotten a lot of talks about what bullying is, but for this module, we want to go a little more in depth about the subject. We’re going to talk about topics that I didn’t learn until I was in college, but wished I had learned when I was your age. Those topics are implicit bias, microaggressions, and bystander intervention. I want to also mention that we’ve talked a little bit about bullying already in a mini module about safety. Here is that module if you would like to take a look! There are also resources for bullying here at stopbullying.gov (hyperlink opens the website). 

    the phrase "Let's talk about implicit bias" on a green background with stripes

    Let’s start our discussion with implicit bias. Ohio University’s Division of Diversity and Inclusion defines Implicit Bias as, “Unconscious associations that rely on stereotypes, which cause us to make snap judgments about others... Bias is not one dimensional, and it is important to recognize that implicit bias can be about gender OR race, or gender AND race (as well as other marginalized identities). Having implicit bias does not mean that you have to act on that bias, as there are strategies you can take to minimize bias. Your first step should be learning your own biases...”  

    After reading that definition, I know it can be a little hard to understand. Let’s break it down further. We have a lot of thought processes that we don’t even know that we have. Sometimes, these thought processes make us judge people or places, etc. without even meaning to. Some things that can influence these thought processes are stereotypes that we have been taught.  Here (hyperlink opens the activity in a new tab) is an interactive lesson from PBS, and here is a lesson from EdSurge that you can work through for additional information about implicit bias.  

    the phrase "Let's talk about microaggressions" on a green background with stripes

    Next, let’s talk about microaggressions. Ohio University defined microaggressions as, “the ‘slights, indignities, put downs, insults and invalidations that marginalized people in our society experience in their day-to-day interactions with well-intentioned individuals who are unaware of their demeaning and offensive behavior’ (Mauzy 2020)… Microaggressions can happen to any marginalized population and include forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression.” 

    Again, let’s break this down further and connect it to the idea of implicit biases. Microaggressions often materialize through small comments that have a large impact on individuals. These microaggressions can be influenced by implicit biases and the stereotypes that we’ve been taught throughout our lives. 

    Some examples of microaggressions, according to pragmaticmom.com, include: 

    • “Setting low expectations for a student from particular groups or neighborhoods. 
    • Using inappropriate humor in class that degrades students from different groups. 
    • Singling students out in class because of their backgrounds. 
    • Complimenting non-white students on their use of ‘good English.’” 

    In some situations, we might experience or witness microaggressions from our peers. Examples of this could be: 

    • Labeling a fellow student in a way that does not align with how they identify themselves based on the way they dress or style their hair. 
    • Assuming family information or relationships of another student based on societal/media stereotypes of certain cultural groups. 
    • Crediting someone's intelligence based on one or more of their identities (gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status). 
    the phrase "Let's talk about bystander intervention" on a green background with stripes

    Finally, let’s talk about what to do if you experience these things or see someone else being subject to them. This is called bystander intervention. According to Ohio University, “Bystander intervention is a social science model that encourages witnesses to actively address a situation that they deem problematic. A bystander is anyone who witnesses a scenario in which harm is imminent or who receives a disclosure of an incident after the fact. It is the responsibility of a bystander to use effective, active means of intervention to disrupt the harm from occurring or de-escalating a situation. Ohio University utilizes the Four D’s Model of Bystander Intervention: 

    • Direct: Get involved! 
    • Delegate: Find someone to help! 
    • Distract: Disrupt the situation! 
    • Delay: Respond with empathy, share appropriate resources, and hold space with someone who is disclosing an act of violence.” 

    All of these techniques can be used on their own, but they can also be used together in some circumstances. For this module’s activity we are going to be observing some roleplays to see how we can best use the methods. 

    When talking about bystander intervention, it’s also important to talk about a concept called the “diffusion of responsibility.” This is the idea that when the number of bystanders increases, the personal responsibility a person feels to intervene in a situation decreases. When people see that there are a lot of people around, many may feel that they don’t need to intervene because someone else will do it. This can cause problems when everyone differs responsibility to someone else, leading no one to intervene.  

    For example, I once saw someone being bullied and I knew it was wrong, but I was too afraid to say something while it was happening, hoping that someone else would step in so that I didn’t have to. No one ever did, and I can remember feeling very guilty about it afterwards. In this situation, I could have used any of the bystander intervention strategies.  Have you ever felt this/had an experience like this in your own life? 

    I know that all of the concepts that we talked about in this module can be very hard to grasp, so feel free to always return to this module when you need a refresher. Like I said earlier, I never learned any of these concepts until I was in college, so you’re already way ahead of the game! I hope you enjoyed this module, and I will see you next time.  


    Here is the playlist for this module (hyperlink opens the playlist on YouTube)! Feel free to listen to the playlist while you’re participating in the activity.  


    Watch this video where my coworkers and I talk about what you can do if you ever come across a problematic situation in the wild! 

    Works Cited  

    White, Taneasha. “Intent vs Impact: Meaning, Examples, & Which Matters More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 28 Apr. 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/intent-vs-impact


    The Real on Friendships in the New Year
    group of friends with backs facing us on a green/yellow background with the text "conquering friendships in the new year"


    Hello Young Leaders and Happy New Year! My name is Kaia McKenney, and I will be your new host for the Young Leader Empowerment Series virtual modules. I am currently a fourth-year student at Ohio University studying Environmental Studies and Spanish, and I am excited to learn and share content with you in the coming months. As a young leader myself, I am deeply passionate about supporting girls and young women interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and bringing awareness to environmental issues from an urban context.  

    The topic for this module focuses on friendships and relationships, and how we can work to create healthy and strong connections with other people. With the new year upon us, some people find it helpful to become reflective of how they spend their time and who that time is spent with. With many social events held online or in virtual formats, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain new or old relationships with friends and acquaintances. Despite some aspects of life being out of our control, we can control how we present ourselves and identify the types of people that positively impact our overall well-being. In the previous YLES module titled “I Know How to Love Me: Relationships!”, we discussed how to identify healthy relationships and the importance of beneficial friendships. You can access that module here. 

    The following module sections will provide descriptions for types of friendships/relationships that are common, ways to feel confident in how you present yourself to others, and the many ways in which we can create or strengthen our bonds with others! 

    teal image with sunflowers growing with black text above image saying "new year, new opportunities to grow"

    New Year, New Opportunity 

    One of the best pieces of advice I have received is the idea of reinventing myself at any time, especially when there is a change in my life. Now, I extend this piece of advice to you! I want to emphasize that you can have multiple interests, hopes or goals at the same time and that these can change throughout your life and there is no “right” way to experience or start them.  

    You may have heard people creating resolutions or commitments to themselves to work on an aspect of their life. This could be related to trying something new, revisiting an old hobby, or looking at things with a different mindset. Part of my resolutions is to work on the social side of my life and navigate the exciting (and sometimes daunting) adventure of making friends. First, it is helpful to understand that there can be various kinds of friendships in life depending on time, place, interest, etc.  

    Types of Friendships  

    Lifelong, close, or best friends 

    These friendships are the ones that last a significant amount of time, typically for more than a year. Close or best friends are the people you can confide in, and they understand your perspectives on many levels. It is likely that you will have fewer lifelong or best friends throughout your life than other types of friends, which is partially due to the bond and mutual understanding between each other (Psychology Today, 2021).  

    Friends based on similar interests 

    Picture this - you join the soccer team at school and after the first couple of practices you begin talking to another girl on the team. You learn that you both have a lot of similar interests besides soccer, including painting and loving cats. This friendship is one based on liking some of the same things while engaging in a common hobby. 

    Friends by proximity/convenience 

    These types of friendships are based on your routine and the environment you find yourself in such as school, extracurriculars, or other places you go frequently Psychology Today, 2021). Once you no longer go to these places as often (or at all) you may not interact with these friends as often as you did - and that’s okay! I often had a hard time understanding why I fell out of relationships with people I seemed to spend so much time with, only to realize we connected partially because we were at the same place at the same time.  

    group of friends hanging out with text "how to make friendships 101"

    How to Make Friendships 101 

    Quality Over Quantity 

    Although you may feel pressure to make new friends at the start of a new activity or attending a new school, I want to emphasize that it is okay to have as many friends as you like. This is true for now and throughout your life as things ebb and flow! That could look like having one friend, many friends, or finding a friend in yourself. It is also certainly okay to feel lonely at times if you have fewer friendships than you ideally want. Having these feelings is normal and something I am working through myself; it is perfectly healthy to have periods where you are more introverted, especially as we continue to live in a global pandemic.    

    Feeling Seen Among Your Friends 

    Remember, even in situations where you are surrounded by other people, it can be difficult to build truly meaningful relationships with those we call our friends. Making friends can be tricky, and we know it may involve stepping outside of your comfort zone. You may be thinking, “Kaia, what are some tips and tricks to have a healthy friendship?” This video explores the idea of knowing people on a deep level, what it means to be lonely, and how to approach these concepts with current friendships. For me, this talk resonated with the times I felt like I had to think about what I would say in a group setting or when I felt like my friends didn’t realize when I was uncomfortable in a situation.   

    Defining Popularity 

    When discussing the process of making or having friends, the idea of being popular can creep up. Being well-liked is something many people crave when it comes to having friends, especially in settings such as school or activities with your peers. I know that when I was in middle school and into high school, I put a lot of time and effort into becoming friends with people I viewed as popular. Although I myself didn't want to be super popular, I wanted the people that my peers and I put on a social pedestal - the funny, smart, and well-dressed kids. It took me a while to realize I was all those things and so were so many other people my age because ideas of what is likeable, or trendy are entirely subjective. Clinical psychology professor and author Mitch Prinstein explains how popularity impacts people’s perception of their peers. He also explains that there are downsides to traditional ideas of popularity, and that it is more important to be likable than popular (Talking to Teens, 2018).   

    Here is a short activity you can do to evaluate your own definition of popularity and how you may have formed those ideas!  

    When you hear the word ‘popularity,’ what words or images come to mind? What things have influenced your perception of what is popular? How does it make us feel if we aren’t popular? Do you think it is more valuable to be well-liked by a few or well- liked by many? 

    person with purple background and text saying "making friends while staying true to yourself"

    Making Friendships While Staying True to Yourself 

    To wrap up this month’s discussion on making new friends and thinking about your current relationships with others, I encourage you to prioritize yourself. Although we cannot always control what others do or say, we can control how we share and respond to others. You have the power to express your feelings and seek out friendships with people that align with your values/interests. And remember, every day is another opportunity to reinvent yourself! 

    Extra Activity!

    Document with small post its where folks can write out 3-5 character traits they have and traits they would like to look for in a friend

    Here is a fun activity sheet to identify some of your character traits, character traits you appreciate in a friend, activities you like to do, and how you can commit to being a good friend. A PDF version can be found here! 

    Relationships with friends/peers can be a major aspect of our lives - having people to trust and share our thoughts and feelings with can improve our overall well-being. I hope you have learned from this month’s module and relate to it as well. Thank you for joining me in the first YLES virtual module of the new year, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months! 

    Works Cited 

    Degges-White, S. Ph.D. (2021, November 5). The 7 Types of Friends, and Which Is Most Essential for Our Happiness. Psychology Today.  

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/202111/the-7- types-friends-and-which-is-most-essential-our-happiness  

    Earle, A. (2018, January 4). The Science of Teen Popularity. Talking to Teens.  


    Girls and Women in STEM - That May Be You!  
    Learning and conquering the stem world


    Welcome back to another rendition of the Young Leader Empowerment Series virtual modules! This month’s topic is women’s representation in STEM careers/fields, and I am extremely excited as I am currently studying environmental and urban planning! In the sections below, I will be sharing how I learned about STEM topics and careers, how I decided to pursue STEM themes, and current information on how women and girls impact the world of STEM. We will also cover some of the ways in which you can get involved with materials related to science, math, and technology!  

    what does stem mean?

    What Does STEM Mean? 

    First, a little bit about my STEM journey. When I was in middle school, I remember hearing the word ‘STEM’ for the first time and thought “what does that stand for”? Teachers and peers would throw the word around like it stood for an exclusive club of people based on some similar interest or criteria - and I wanted to know about it. Eventually I learned that STEM serves as an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Cambridge Dictionary, 2022). Once I knew what the acronym itself stood for, I wondered what constituted a subject to be strictly math or science based. I was not a huge fan of biology, chemistry, or algebra, so I quickly ruled out the idea that I would be interested in STEM. However, individual people define the term differently and some have even included the words ‘arts’ and ‘reading/research’ to create a new acronym STREAM (National Inventors Hall of Fame, 2022). Having a passion for reading and environmental issues since I was young, I have been drawn to applying certain skills to the general concept of science, but I was not aware of it.  

    Tipping the Scales and Gendered Imbalances in STEM 

    All around the world young girls and women experience barriers to schooling and pursuing an education. Based on recent studies from The World Bank, gender biases are one of the main reasons why girls do not choose to study STEM (World Bank, 2022) Here are some quick facts about STEM to have a better understanding of gaps in certain professions: 

    • Common STEM jobs include subjects such as chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, software development, architecture, finance, and medicine 
    • Specific jobs in these areas include being a software developer, landscape architect, electrical engineer, computer support specialist, biochemist, and more!  
    • Women account for 29% of the STEM labor force 
    • Only 3% of STEM-related CEOs are women 
    • Men receive significantly higher salaries than women 
    • On average, men earn $15,000 more than women, and Latina and Black women in STEM earn $33,000 less than men (AAUW, 2022) 
    • Students can experience academic discrimination from their peers and teachers 
    • An example of this is when teachers (predominantly women) grade girls more strictly than boys because of assumptions that girls must work harder than their male counterparts (AAUW, 2022) 

    Budding Scientists - What’s Stopping Young Women from Pursuing STEM? 

    It is commonly known that women face discrimination and bias in STEM fields, ranging from pay gaps to cultural speech in professional settings. You can read more about how this issue has impacted women’s success in the workplace: here. But how does this affect young girls in their pursuit of continuing certain fields? The answer to that question is complex and we can see this from ages as young as 9- many young girls lose their confidence in math by the third grade while boys gain confidence in this area (AAUW, 2022). Other reasons that impact the presence of girls/women in STEM fields are gendered stereotypes, male-dominated culture, decreased number of role models, and anxiety around math and science subjects. With men making up 72% of the collective workforce of STEM (and even higher percentages in professions such as engineering and computer science) cultural perpetuations of masculine careers have influenced women’s pursuit of such jobs.  

    “Plugging the Leaky STEM Pipeline”  

    Below are some video and audio resources that excellently explain what it is like to be a young woman in a STEM career, and how creativity can be implemented to encourage more girls to be successful in science-based careers. 


    This podcast presents an amazing number of facts and statistics about discrepancies in high school education for girls. One of my favorite parts of the discussion was the explanation of the acronym “TEAM (Technology, Engineering, Applied Physics, and Math),” which can emphasize collaboration in science/technology fields and encourage girls to engage in these subjects.  

    I particularly like how the presenter gave specific examples of what it was like to be surrounded by mostly male classmates and professors. Although there was professional and academic respect between the students and educators, she always felt as if she had to prove herself in comparison to others.  

    making an impact in stem and any age

    Trailblazing STEM Girls and Women 

    As you can guess, there are countless girls and women that have or currently are making a difference in science, technology, engineering, math, and beyond. To get you inspired in all things activism and STEM, I have chosen three amazing female leaders that I resonated with! 

    Mari Copeny: Growing up in Flint, Michigan, this young activist made headlines in 2016 when she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama. In her letter she explained how the contaminated water in her hometown was negatively affecting people’s health and lives. Not expecting a response, Copeny was surprised with a meeting from the President himself in later that year. Advocating for hers and others’ right to clean water, Copeny hopes to empower other girls to fight for what they believe in and plans to run for president in 2044 (Today, 2019).  

    Mary Jackson: With an extensive list of professional accomplishments, Mary Jackson is one of the most influential women in engineering. At the start of her career, Jackson served as a math teacher and later held several job titles. She is most known for being NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958 and it is assumed that she was the only Black female aeronautical engineer in the 1950’s. At NASA she completed impactful research on the air surrounding airplanes and breached racial barriers throughout her career (NASA, 2021). She is also one of the three protagonists portrayed in the recent film Hidden Figures.  

    Tu YouYou: Chemist Tu YouYou is one of the most influential contributors to the study of modern medicine. Studying pharmacology in college, Tu soon found a passion for utilizing Chinese medicine techniques to fight deadly diseases. Working in charge of Project 523 to research the illness malaria, she and her team soon discovered an active element in ancient medicinal practices that proved successful. To ensure the substance was safe, Tu even tested it on herself before using it on patients. With the success of the chemical substance, Tu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 (Nobel Prize, 2022).  

    Activity: STEM Puzzle Sheet (check at the end of this module for the answer key!) 

    stem puzzle

    Learn More and Get Involved!  

    A lot of information has been covered in this month’s module which can be overwhelming for sure. With so many ways to define STEM alone, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what topics align most to your passions. I first encourage you to do some research online, at school, or your local library and have fun learning the latest information. Personally, I find it fascinating to do a deep dive into one topic at a time, but you might like to focus on more than one simultaneously. Next, ask your peers, teachers, or other adults in your life about activities and organizations local to you (and beyond) that incorporate themes related to problem solving, innovative ideas, or traditional STEM fields of study. This is one way to become involved in matters local to where you live and learn how systems work at various levels. It may be best to start small and commit to allocating time/energy to one activity or organization at first and build on from there.  

    It is also important to emphasize that getting involved can mean lots of things! You do not always have to do traditional ways of volunteering or being part of an organization. One of the most meaningful ways to advocate for a cause is to teach others about related information- it is also a fantastic way to measure your understanding of a topic if you can speak or teach it to someone else. Below are some cool and informative podcasts that explore a wide range of topics that will have you learning something new each time. 

    Tumble - a science-based podcast hosted by two parents as they interview scientists on numerous topics. https://www.sciencepodcastforkids.com/   

    Stuff You Missed in History Class - find out about the whacky and odd facts not covered in your average history course. https://www.iheart.com/podcast/stuff-you-missed-in-history-cl-21124503/  

    Wow in the World - this podcast covers a wide range of science and technology topics that will have you learning something new each time you listen. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510321/wow-in-the-world/   


    Thank you for joining me in yet another module of the Young Leader Empowerment Series! I greatly enjoyed learning about current information related to STEM and hope you have connected with the information provided. I look forward to sharing next month’s topic with you! 


    Stem. STEM | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/stem 

     Census. Retreived February 15, 2022, from  

    https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/01/women-making-gains-in-stem-occupations- but-still-underrepresented.html   

    National Inventors Hall of Fame.  Why Is STEM Hard To Define?  


    National Coalition of Girl’s Schools. (2021, February 3). Podcast from STEM STEAM: Girls’ School Leading the Way. NCGS. https://www.ncgs.org/advocacy/blog/2021/02/03/from-stem-to-steam-girls- school-leading-the-way/    

    National Inventors Hall of Fame. (2022). 6 STEM Podcasts Kids (and Parents!) Will Love  

    AAUW. (2022) The STEM Gap: Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics 


    Nobel Prize. (2022) Tu YouYou: Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015.  


    National Society of High School Scholars. (2020, July 6). 7 Famous Women in STEM Who Defy the Gender Gap. NSHSS. https://www.nshss.org/blog/7-famous-women-in-stem-who-defy-the- gender-gap/  

    Big Rentz. (2021, February 3). Women in STEM Statistics to Inspire Future Leaders.  


    Career School Now. (2022). 30 Popular and 10 Unusual STEM Careers.  


    The World Bank. (2022). Girl’s Education.  


    Frontiers in Pyschology. (2019, February 19). Double Trouble: How Being Outnumbered and Negatively Stereotypes Threatens Career Outcoms in Women in STEM.     https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00150/full  

    NASA. (2021, February 8). Mary W. Jackson Biography. https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-w-jackson- biography  

    Today. (2019. September 27). How Little Miss Flint Captivated the Nation — and What She's Up to Years Later. https://www.today.com/style/what-mari-copeny-aka-little-miss-flint-now-t159829  

    TEDXYOUTH @FIS. (2019, February). Young Women in STEM.  


    Puzzle Answers!

    puzzle key
    Youth Activism and Meaningful Volunteerism
    youth activism and volunteering finding the passion within yourself


    Hello Young Leaders and Happy Spring! I hope you have enjoyed some nice weather wherever you are as the temperature slowly climbs. For this month’s virtual module series, we will be covering the topic of activism and volunteering. With so many people around the world and countless cultural, environmental, political, social, etc. issues to solve, it can be difficult to figure out how/where to start. Fear not, as we will address this and much more!  

    In the content below, we will define what activism is and the many ways to be an activist. Other topics that we will cover are: how to get involved locally, examples of young activists, a themed activity, and resources for further learning. 

    what is activism and what is volunteerism

    What is Activism, and What is Volunteerism? 


    First things first, what is activism? Activism can be defined as “taking action to create social change” (Activist Handbook). Actions related to activism can include writing letters to political officials, protesting in public spaces, challenging ideas, and much more! Activists can be people of all ages and with varying levels of experience - you are probably an activist even if you do not call yourself one. What is the difference between volunteerism and activism? Volunteerism entails unpaid labor that typically aids in community empowerment (Leverage Edu, 2021). While some people view volunteering as work with receiving nothing in return, it can be very rewarding to support a local cause or organization.    

    When I was in elementary school, I was a Girl Scout. Not only was this fun, but I learned about a lot of ways to volunteer in my home community. I was also surrounded by amazing women figures that volunteered their time to teach my troop about topics including voting, animal species, and camping (Girl Scouts, 2022). Later in middle school, I became interested in climate issues and the environment. I joined clubs at my school to learn more about skills related to gardening and recycling. I recommend this as a first step for finding where your passions lie for volunteering efforts. Once I became more knowledgeable about environmental issues, I decided to continue studying connections between natural and built landscapes in college. In the past four years I have learned a lot about environmental conservation, preservation, and infrastructure!  

    Getting Involved at the Local Level 

    You’ve found a club or organization you find interesting, but now what? First it would be great to research when the next volunteer event for that organization is being held. You might consider asking someone in your support system to help you research different causes in your community and find folks who are doing the work to join them! Many times, activists communicate online, and social media can be a wealth of information. It is also helpful to share your interest with an adult or peer that you are close to, so that you can be supported in your pursuit to volunteer and be safe in new online and in-person spaces.  

    amazing young activists

    Amazing young activists!  

    As previously stated, activists can be people of all ages, younger and older. To inspire you, below are wonderful examples of girls who are creating lasting change around the world. Each of them advocates for a different cause, and you can learn more about them at the UN website, linked here:  

    Julieta Martinez: Working to create more equality related to gender and climate issues, Julieta Martinez from Chile founded the Tremendas Collaborative Platform. Her organization focuses on encouraging young people to get involved in “environment, inclusion, gender, health, and welfare and education” (UN, 2022). You can follow her work on Instagram @julietamartinezo  

    Latifatou Compaoré: Latifatou Compaoré is from Burkina Faso and works to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Compaoré became passionate about this type of activism after her mother shared her experience with FGM (UN, 2022).  

    Samaira Mehta: Born in the U.S., Samaira Mehta has several amazing accomplishments at only the age of 14! Beginning coding at the age of 6, Mehta is the founder and CEO of the boardgames Coderbunnyz and Codermindz. It is her mission to help 1 billion kids have access to STEM/coding information by 2030 (UN, 2022). You can follow her work on Instagram @coderbunnyz  

    Interviews with Inspiring Advocates 

    To learn more about how those around me advocate for social issues and participate in activism, I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Women’s Center student staff member Hailey Linenkugel! In our conversation, she spoke about the organizations she is passionate about, and advice for young girls to get involved with community activism. Below are the questions that I asked her:  

    1. How do you define activism?  
    2. When did you become interested in activism? 
    3. What issues are you passionate about?  
    4. How do you continue to learn about social issues? 
    5. What advice do you have for young activists?


    The activity for this month is a fun ‘BuzzFeed’ style quiz to see what type of activism or volunteering effort could be best for you! This can help you start a certain type of action that aligns best with your short-term volunteering goals. To access the quiz, click the link below and share with your friends and family to compare your results! Keep in mind that you can possess more than one of these qualities. For myself, I identify as an advocate for issues related to environmental justice and racism because I have studied these topics for several years. However, I am currently an active learner about police brutality in the U.S. because I am still learning about this topic.  

    Additional Resources 

    As always, there is much more to learn about the topic than we discussed in this module. Below are some multi-media resources to facilitate your journey to learn more about activism and advocating for issues as a young person. I particularly enjoyed episodes from podcast Activist, You! which is hosted by Lindz Amer and features kid and youth activists. Listen and learn about environmentalism, immigration, racial justice and more: https://app.kidslisten.org/.  

    I appreciate how the speaker of this video speaks about her personal experience to the audience, and how she was not aware she was becoming an activist at such a young age. Starting with her love of the environment and plants, Testa soon learned that young people have lots of power when it comes to social issues. Testa concludes by outlining how to get involved in activism: Number 1: “Know your Why”: find a cause you are passionate about and that you find enjoyable. Number 2: “Educate Yourself: learn in any way possible about the topic you care about. Lastly, number 3: “Advocate for Change”: teach others about the cause you are supporting and how their actions can have an impact. As Testa says at the end of her talk, “(TED x AlpharettaWomen, November 2020). 

    change has an impact no matter how big or small


    Thank you for joining me again for this month’s module of the Young Leader Empowerment Series. I had a wonderful time learning about how to get involved as a young activist and sharing that information with you. I hope that you have been inspired to continue advocating for a cause you are passionate about, or you research a new issue to work towards! Unfortunately, this is my last module with the Young Leader Empowerment Virtual Series as I am graduating this semester. I will be continuing my studies and pursuing a graduate degree in landscape architecture. I have enjoyed writing about meaningful topics and ways to encourage young girls to find their passions. As some last words of encouragement, I want to remind you that you are a strong and smart person that is capable of great things!  


    Activist Handbook. What is Activism? From  


    Girl Scouts. (2022). Explore Activities by Grade Level. From 


    Student Activism. (2022). Simmons University from  


    Team Leverage Edu. (2021, March 26). What is Volunteerism and Why is it Important?. Wings 


    Ted X Alpaharetta Women. (2020 November) Youth Activism: Activating Your Voice. From https://www.ted.com/talks/hannah_testa_youth_activism_activating_your_voice 

    UN Women. (2022, October 8). Girls to Know: The Next Generation is Already Leading the Way. From https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2020/10/compilation-girls-to-know