Teens get an earful at workshop

Teresa Baker, founder and president of the Women of Distinction — Crystals, leads the physical component of the workshop.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

Fifteen teens spent a rainy and cold Saturday discussing peer pressure, social media, personal goals, physical fitness, health and other topics at the first ever teen workshop hosted by the Women of Distinction — Crystals, a Gainesville social and service organization.

The workshop was held last Saturday at the Boys & Girls Club Mentor Center in the Lincoln Estates neighborhood.

Established in 2009, Women of Distinction consists of 14 women who volunteer and provide services to the community, including care packages for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House, coat drives for families who are struggling, Thanksgiving baskets, and other services.

Teresa Baker, founder and president, said the purpose of the workshop was to provide teens with a platform to discuss their concerns. The topics explored were setting goals, health and exercise, social media and faith.

"We want to stay connected and let them (teens) know we're here for them," said Baker. "The goal is that they will learn from us and we will learn from them."

During the workshop, the teens rotated through three interactive stations led by members of the Women of Distinction, who were facilitators.

The stations included an exercise segment by Baker, a peer chat by Charlesa James and her husband, Kevin James, and teen goals by Terrie Ellerbe, vice president of the group.

Shana Smith, a member of Women of Distinction, told the teens to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss their concerns. "What happens here, stays here," Smith said. "If you're struggling, come to us and we will try to help you."

Ellerbe led an interactive goal-setting activity, where the teens were encouraged to browse through a stack of magazines and cut out words that reflected their personality and their goals. The teens then drew silhouettes — called goal-setting boards — and pasted words on them they had selected from the magazines, including peace, express, education, work, fearless, happy, brilliant, optimistic, potential, fun, perfect and healthy.

During the peer chat segment, the teens discussed choices and their consequences. "Take what you get here today," said Kevin James. "You will remember what they said and it will make a difference."

Charlesa James reminded the teens that information and photos posted in social media sites like Facebook are there for everyone to see. "You have to be careful how you interact with people," said Charlesa James. "It can come back to haunt you."

Kevin James told the teens to choose their friends carefully. "To be successful, surround yourself with people with the same goals," he said. "Perception is reality."

The workshop received high marks.

Christian Wallace, a senior at St. Francis Catholic High School, said he liked the workshop.

"I think it's nice because it gives us kids a positive view of life, instead of negativity."

Monnette Faison, who came from Tampa to bring her teen daughter and nephew to the workshop, said, "This is wonderful and well worth the two-hour drive from Tampa."

"I talk to my daughter about goals, but I think it's good for her to hear it from someone else," Faison said.

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