“The Only Thing I Have to Do Is Be Myself”

We are coming to the end of our summer programs, as well as our summer campaign. It’s been an incredible season full of memory-making and friendship-building, and it’s been a joy to share stories from our young participants. Before we wrap up, we’re excited to share Gabi’s experience with Y-WE programs, where she learned to prioritize her wellness and express herself authentically.

Gabi (left) at Y-WE’s 2023 Spring Celebration

Gabi first came to Y-WE last summer in Y-WE Create. Since then she has participated in Y-WE Grow, Y-WE Write, and is now completing our summer internship at Marra Farm. She remembers being nervous at first, worried that she was the only new person in the room, but she quickly learned that “the only thing I have to do here is just be comfortable and be myself.” She connected right away at lunch with some new friends, and noticed that for the first time, she felt safe to express what was important to her. “I felt like it was a space where I could be accepted. Like, I didn’t have to pretend to be someone else. I didn’t have to not talk about what I wanted to talk about.” 

Gabi also remembers learning about wellness at Y-WE programs, which is one of our biggest priorities throughout all our curriculum. “I’ve learned that it’s okay to set up boundaries, but not just with other people, but with yourself as well.” She explained that the adult mentors and other participants modeled what it looks like to set these boundaries, which helped her feel comfortable to do the same. “I kind of picked up that it’s okay to take a break sometimes. And it’s okay to want to love yourself more. And I think it’s bettered my wellness, hearing it from other people. Because I think that I need validation from other people sometimes.” 

The safe space that Y-WE staff and adult mentors set up was a new experience for Gabi. She describes that at school, interactions with adults feel pressured. “When there’s adults [around], I know that young people tend to kind of get in their shell and not really talk as much. But the adults at Y-WE – they always listen, like even if you’re nervous, they listen to what you want to say. And they don’t make you feel like your words are unimportant, just because of your age.”

Gabi’s experience at Y-WE programs shows that our intergenerational community of belonging creates space for young people to be who they are. In a society that often discourages taking up space, setting examples and showing youth that their voices matter is transformative. We are grateful to hold this space for young people and watch them flourish, and we couldn’t do it without our supportive community. Help us continue this impactful work by making a donation today.

Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) cultivates the power of diverse young women* to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers, through transformative programs within a collaborative community of belonging. Join our community by making a donation to support our work with youth today. 

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*those who identify as women, girls, trans, non-binary, or gender expansive