You might think that asking 13 girls from 11 different schools to spend their weekend meeting new people, trying yoga, giving up their (gasp!) phones, putting pen to paper, and telling their stories in front of an audience of over 100 people would be a terrible idea. You would be wrong. These girls knocked our socks off. They put in the work, they were generous of spirit and they braved the stage.

 How? How did this bit of magic occur over the course of just three days?

… with a little help from some friends.

Take a lookiloo behind the scenes of this amazing weekend we spent being wowed by a group of teenage girls.

Erin Tarr founder of “Be the Benchmark” partnered with Jenette Jurczyk Creative Director of “That’s What She Said” to produce a weekend program designed to empower teen girls through empathy November 9 – 11, 2018.

Sharing stories, reflecting on their own lives and values, encouraging and listening to one another, playing improv games and (of course) noshing throughout the weekend (did we mention without phones?),  contributed to “the best weekend of my life” as several participants stated.

Activities on day one focused on how to “choose your thoughts” and “find your story,” leading into day two’s activities meant to “create your life” and “own your story,” with the third and final day’s public performance serving to “change the world” by “sharing your story.”

One of the best quotes from the weekend, “Slow dow, don’t throw your words away. Your words are a gift.”

For some of us, trying yoga was definitely out of our comfort zones! #PushYourself

While we did have some serious debates on make-up, the topics the girls chose to share were honest, brave, and sometimes raw. Some of the things they shared covered divorce, coming out, friendship, anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.

These girls were such encouragers to each other.

Pre-show shenanigans!

LET’S DO THIS!

Through generous support from Busey Bank and the Champaign Park District, participants from a variety of schools throughout Champaign County were nominated by teachers, advisors, and parents and selected to participate regardless of ability to pay.

The women of Busey represented!

Who is this angel? She attended the show and sought out the speakers to encourage them with, “I don’t know anyone here today. I came to tell you all to keep speaking your truth. You are ambassadors.”

Gulp. Before the show, Erin shared the sentiment we were all feeling. “We need to give these girls a standing ovation before they ever step on this stage. They already did all the heavy lifting over the weekend.”

We always say that it is just as important to HEAR someone else’s story as it is to TELL your story. It was beautiful to see moms, dads, sisters, teachers, neighbors, coaches, and community members show up to support these young women. It really does take a village.

 

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There is nothing stronger than a “Mama Bear Heart” and we were honored to give the moms the chance to see their girls brave the stage and tell their truths.

Missed the show? Know a girl to nominate? Want to sponsor a teen? Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. The team is already looking forward to reprising the program for a second group of area teens in the Spring of 2019!

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