This post was written by Leslie Lazcano, a mentee in the Digital Media Mentoring Program, who participated in the Mentee Mid-Year Workshop on Saturday, January 11.
It was just before 10:00 when I tugged on the front door at Girls Write Now. Still groggy, I was surprised by how heavy the door seemed to be, and how little it gave when I yanked on it. Maybe I’m more tired than I thought, I considered. When I put a little more weight into it, the door finally budged, and I was able to squeeze my way through and head upstairs. I grabbed my name tag at check-in and proceeded to join all of the other mentees at the reunion.
I didn’t recognize anybody in the room, so I grabbed a seat towards the front and began leafing through the handouts left on my chair. One handout was a purple sheet of paper that had “What are you feeling today?” written across it. I considered the question. I’m tired, I thought. Not only did I wake up super early to commute an hour and a half from home, but I was also worn out from school, homework, college applications, and all the extracurricular activities I’m involved in.
Agitated. That would be another description for how I felt because the humidity made a mess of my hair, making it seem as if I had just rolled out of bed. I scribbled my thoughts on a sheet of paper and already felt better. With that load lifted, I felt ready to expand my mind and open myself up to inspiration.
It turned out that more and more mentees were ushered into the room as I was figuring out my feelings for the day, so it was only a few minutes later that we moved on to Opening Lines: Moment of Clarity. The purpose of the activity was to “think about moments of clarity in your life… choose one that reveals or captures something about where you’re from, what you value, or the community you’re part of.”
The questions were so straightforward, but I found the simplicity of the questions to be challenging. I thought about how I should answer. My culture? No that’s too broad, and I don’t feel like it completely defines me. My school? Umm no, and I’m not sure that qualifies as a moment of clarity. I was stuck. I had no idea what to write, and then it hit me: Kaylee. The day my sister was born was my moment of clarity. She defines who I am and everything I value in life. Taking care of her has made me a responsible person. Because of Kaylee, I look at life from a completely different perspective. The day was just beginning, but I was already feeling so inspired in such a unique and indescribable way.
Next we moved onto Youth Panel: Barriers to Break where five young women shared their stories about their own experiences of breaking barriers. The speakers ranged from Melissa Campbell, an 18-year-old youth activist who works as a program coordinator at SPARK Movement, another young activist who works as an architect and has a firm belief in the power of design, and another youth activist who works as a playwright.
Each woman had a unique story of the struggles she had to overcome in order to accomplish her dreams. It was a connection that made us realize that if they can beat the obstacles in their lives, we could too. Some of the women told us that they had no support from their families, and they were discouraged from pursuing their dreams, but despite all of those challenges, they were able to accomplish their goals.
When the panel finished, we started on Group Re-imagining: Stories That Shape Us. It was an unexpected topic that made me explore who I really am. Just as before, the questions were simple, but they were not easy to answer. My favorite prompt was “I face the challenge of… ” because it is the one prompt that I am most familiar with.
I am a 17-year-old Hispanic female, and the oldest daughter of immigrant parents. I was born and raised in the Bronx, and I go to high school in the poorest congressional district in America. My whole life is a challenge! Usually, when people find out half of that information they automatically think I won’t amount to anything. But there is one important thing about me that people don’t know from the above details: my determination. And I know that is what will allow me to be successful in life. This June I will be graduating from the Bronx Center of Science and Mathematics, ranked one of the best high schools in New York with a higher graduation rate than most high schools in the city. Just because I’m a Hispanic female from the Bronx doesn’t mean that I’m not able to accomplish my goals in life.
Before I knew it, we were moving on to Closing Lines where we had to go up as a group and perform our collaborative piece to the room using lines from what we had written for the Stories That Shape Us. We decided we would all share the I am strong because… prompt. As a group, we all said, “I am strong because . . .” and then one by one, we stated our individual reasons for why we are strong. I said, “I overcome my challenges and prove that the assumptions made about me are not true.” After every group had presented, the room was filled with inspiration!
Without even realizing it, three hours had breezed by, and it was time to go home. It had been such an amazing day! All of the mentees walking out of Girls Write Now were different than they were coming in. We were smiling, we were confident, we were breaking through! When I pushed on the door to the street, a gust of wind brushed over my face. I felt the weight of my determination and my desire to be heard by the world. As I stepped onto the sidewalk, I realized that door wasn’t so hard to open after all.
- Mentee Shirleyka reflected on her own inspirations and challenges from the Mentee Mid-Year Workshop — check it out!
- Mentors also got together in January to talk about their challenges and share stories. Read our Mid-Year Round-up to get the latest