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National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Youth Speak Out: 'We Can Talk About Anything'

Six high school girls talk about the benefits of mentoring and community service through Baltimore’s Young Women in Action Initiative.

Time: 7:11 | Size: 6.6 MB


KEY: FS - Female Speaker


John Lingan: [music] Welcome to the Positive Youth Development Podcast Series by the Family and Youth Services Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The series is produced by the National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth. FYSB supports child mentoring programs throughout the country, many of which are using January's national mentoring month celebration to recruit new volunteers and help guide more children towards productive lives and higher self-esteem.


In Baltimore City, the Mayor's Young Women in Action Initiative offers at-risk middle school girls an opportunity to socialize, meet with mentors and serve the community. A number of the program's graduates, all now in high school, still meet on Saturday to continue those goals. And they spent one such afternoon at a local nursing home in mid-December helping residents make gifts and sing songs for the holidays.


FS: These are our young ladies. [applause] They're really sweet young ladies. They do their work in school. And they come out on Saturdays to work with myself and Ms. Yvette, Ms. Lisa and Ms. Nina. And nobody's making them come out. They come out because they want to. And they said that they wanted to come and share with you also. We thought that it would be a nice thing to come and share with you.


FS: This is my second time here at a senior citizen home. And it's fun to work with senior citizens. Because you can help them out with problems they need. Like I keep an eye on my grandmother. She's sick. So I like helping out with other people.


FS: Teenagers or whatever, they don't really have nothing to do except for like party, party, party. It's like different influences and stuff that's out there that should probably just give it to you. Because you don't have no program or nothing to fall back onto or saying it's going to make you think twice about doing what you're doing wrong.


FS: In middle school, I was back and forth with myself. Like I wasn't sure of myself. And I was seeing myself following other people. So when they came to us saying that they wanted us to sign up for this group, I was the first one that signed up for it.


FS: I got involved with it because one of my teachers signed me up. They was asking teachers to pick girls that you think will not succeed in life or whatever. And I got picked. Not knowing why. Because I had very good potential. But at the same time, I know that I had a bad attitude. And I can get a little off the walls.


FS: When I was in the sixth grade, my mentor's name was Ms. Carol Lee. She helped me with my problems that I was going through. I could come to her, talk to her. I felt comfortable when I was talking to her. If I needed some tutoring, she helped me.


FS: I decided to come and join this program because my administrator introduced me to it. So when I joined it, I started keeping up with it. And I said, okay. I'm going to keep going. Because I like it very much.


FS: What brought me back again is the one thing that like the comfort level that I feel when I'm with the girls or with Ms. Denise. And they do not put like a limit on what we can talk about or a limit on how we can express ourselves. So that's a really positive thing. And it's really what keeps motivating me to come back.


FS: We come. We talk. We talk about our issues. Like everybody they feel comfortable talking to each other. Because we're like all sisters. We're all like family.


FS: I talk to Ms. Denise all the time. Like all my text messages and stuff. I like her. Because she keeps a positive thought in my head. It's a good support system like a backbone besides your parents.


FS: It's a lot of people I see on the streets, in school, everywhere. They just need somebody. They need somebody basically. Like Ms. Parker, she's a very nice person. I love to talk to her. She's sweet and nice. And she listens to us. And she let us talk. And she don't respond in negative ways.


FS: I believe that it's really good for us young girls, especially in Baltimore City, to have mentors, especially guidance. Because we're like surrounded by so much negativity. And, you know, the gang violence and teenage pregnancy. So it's really good to have women who's actually volunteering and care to know, to help us and to guide us.


FS: It was my idea. But my mother is comfortable with me being in this program. Because she sees that it's helping me and it's changing my attitude.


FS: Even though your parents can be a help, I think having someone else would be a little more help to get you through school, to get you through life.


FS: I would like for them to introduce themselves to you all, okay?


FS: My name is Shanae and I go to Heritage High School.


FS: Hi, my name is Cheontaye.


FS: FS: My name is Alandis. I'm sixteen.


FS: I was thinking like why isn't there a program out there for like young teenage girls?  Especially with what's on our shoulders nowadays. 


FS: Some girls, they choose not to get help.  Because some girls can get help, but they just choose not to. Like my best friend, she could be in this program.  But she just don't want to. 


FS: Yeah, I think this program is a good outreach.  Because I do think of it when I'm about to do something.  Because when I'm about to get in trouble, I be like, oh, then I can't do this.  Or the program that I just got accepted to, I know I can't do that over the summer. 


FS: You're having fun.  But at the same time, you're learning.  Because like school is not like that.  And then it's all girls.  So like you can talk about anything.  Like if it's girls and boys and you're like just laid back.  Because you're like what did I say?  All these boys are here.  I don't know what I'm talking about.  They don't understand what I'm saying.  So like if it's all girls, you can just say be out and open.  Or say whatever you want to say. 


FS: Like the first week that I came, we had to do short-term goals and long-term goals.  So Ms. Denise helps me ... we've had to write out.  And one of my goals was to graduate from high school and go to college and be successful.  And she pushes me.  And she asks me every day am I going and reaching my goal?  And she just pushes me to make sure that I could succeed in life.  [music]


John Lingan: The National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth is a free information service that offers resources for people and organizations interested in helping youth.  For more information on mentoring programs and opportunities, visit