My name is Coral, and I’m an AmeriCorps member serving at Young Women Empowered in Seattle through the Washington Service Corps. Research shows that girls’ self-confidence peaks at age nine, then drops significantly as girls advance through high school. There is a pressing need for mentor-based learning and leadership programs that center marginalized young women and offer practical resources for resiliency. In my role, I coordinate mentorship and leadership programming for young women ages 13-18, including Healthy Futures programming.
As a part of our Healthy Futures programming, we offered a one time Self Defense class on January 10th at Foster High School to familiarize the youth with basic blocks, strikes, pressure points, and verbal de-escalation. The class was taught by Malikah, an organization that teaches self defense classes for young women and especially young women of color who wear hijabs. We had no idea how many young women would show up but 42 young people and 8 adult teachers came and participated, which reflect the need for this kind of programming. Youth and adults worked on verbally establishing boundaries, and finding their voices in telling each other to “stop” when their boundaries had been crossed. For many young women, this was their first time doing anything like this. For some it took many tries, but they felt empowered when they were able to finally do it.
Participating in this training was also highly influential for me because I learned a lot alongside the youth, but also because it gave me the opportunity to see the curriculum impact the youth. My service in AmeriCorps has helped to realize that youth empowerment is something I want to continue after my service term ends. I’m looking forward to coordinating more Healthy Futures programming for young people.