Lauren Furnish has an effective plan for dealing with the uncomfortable -- and at times dangerous -- situations teenagers such as herself can find themselves in: She's secure with herself and confident in the decisions she makes.
"Once you're confident in yourself, you'll be okay with making a decision and sticking to it, even if someone's asking you to do something else," said Furnish, a Steamboat Springs High School sophomore.
Empowering girls to make good choices and develop the skills necessary to deal with the challenges they face is the goal behind a new program developed by Advocates Against Battering and Abuse.
"On Location: Girls, Glamour and Glimpses of Reality" is aimed at teaching seventh-grade girls how to discover their self-esteem and handle peer pressure, said Diane Moore, executive director of Advocates.
Moore and other professionals across the country are finding an increased prevalence of violence, harassment and other crimes directed at young girls, she said.
Compounding the problem is that girls are faced with tough choices that kids of the same age didn't encounter a couple of decades ago, she said. Choices such as dating, drinking and experimenting with drugs and the pressure to be popular and attractive often place teenagers in difficult positions.
"This isn't a project to say kids are making bad choices," Moore said. "This is a proactive program to say, 'Let's help the girls before they have to encounter some of those decisions."
High school students such as Furnish hope that talking with young female students and helping them build their self-esteem will prepare them to make good choices.
"I want to let them know people care about them," said Furnish, one of a group of female Peer Education students from the high school who will help lead the four-week program. "They're going to make their own decisions. We're not there to intimidate them about what high school is like."
Rather, the high-schoolers can serve as role models, Moore said.
"Kids really listen to their peers," she said.
But the serious underlying nature of the program won't keep the group from having fun. Activities such as making jewelry, journals and handbags as well as self-defense lessons and team-building exercises will keep the atmosphere light, Moore said.
"We want it to be a lot of fun," Moore said. "It will be really informal."
The program is free and open to all female Steamboat seventh-graders.
"It's for all seventh-grade girls," Moore said. "It's not about girls who are having problems or girls who are at risk. This is just about girls -- all girls."
The program begins at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday at the middle school. The other three dates for the program are April 13 and 27 and May 4.
Registration forms are available at the middle school and at Advocates' office. The program is funded by the Women's Foundation.
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