Reflection = a fixing of the thoughts on something; careful consideration
I am in 2013 total reflection mode right now and of course, planning and building go hand in hand with reflection. There will be no New Year’s Resolutions Here! My theme and goal for 2014 is to escape my personal and professional comfort zone, however. New actions, projects and opportunities coming soon!!!
How will you usher in the new year? Will you do anything differently in 2014?
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox utilizes youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic empowerment strategies to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs. We are committed to supporting and raising awareness about the needs and potential of teenagers in the foster care system.
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In my January 16, 2013 blog I made the statement that “A life list is better than a bucket list because a life list helps youth discover reasons to live. “ The year before that on January 12, 2012, I suggested youth receive planners, journals, and calendars as New Year’s Day gifts and we combine New Year’s gift giving with the creation of vision boards during the month of January. Let’s start sooner!!
It’s December and I’m updating my lists – my vision board and my life list. Time to break through limiting beliefs and kick self-sabotaging habits to the curb!!
I am “STRETCHING” into 2014!!! I invite you to join me!Are you ready to get Packaged For Success™?
You may have read my last blog about empowering youth to take calculated risks. One way to improve critical thinking skills and to encourage calculated risk taking is through reading regularly.
Reading is preparation for the future. We cannot put a price tag on the value of a quality education. No child can be properly education without becoming a good reader. Poor reading skills usually results in low grades and may lead to low self esteem. Reading opens up new worlds and new possibilities. A book allows youth to escape their current situation and imagine a brighter tomorrow. Youth become more aware of their worlds and their potential simply by reading.
Many youth in the foster care system are struggling academically whether because of interruptions in the education caused by displacement, unidentified learning disabilities, psychological issues, or not receiving the support and attention they need to progress. It is never too late to improve reading skills, however. The number one way to encourage the youth in your life to read is to lead by example – let them see you read. I also encourage you to read with teens (they may protest at first but usually come around). Another way to improve reading skills is to play games that require reading. Writing is also essential. Journaling or creating original commercials, plays, poetry or songs are also recommended.
The teen years are often characterized by impulsive behavior and unwise choices. Statistics tell us that many teens engage in unprotected sex, binge drinking, drug use, and violent altercations – dangerous risks. Of course this is not the case for everyone and I choose to focus on the notion that we can help youth take calculated risks. We can encourage our youth to take calculated risks. We can encourage them to boldly pursue their dreams despite their current circumstances. We can empower them to leave the safety of their comfort zones for the satisfaction of goal achievement.
Calculated risks are thought out and have the potential to lead to a better quality of life. Success takes action. Our level of success in any endeavor is directly related to the level of risk we are able to endure. We have to leave our comfort zones in order to progress. Courage is necessary if we want to move forward.
I tuned in to Oprah’s Lifeclass: The Tour with Bishop TD Jakes this past Monday night and was delighted to learn about Jimmy Graham, tight end for the NFL New Orleans Saints. I’m not a football fan but I am an advocate for youth in foster care and I was captivated as Jimmy shared his experience as a teen in the system.
If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we are commemorating National Foster Care Awareness Month 2012 with a focus on teen males in the foster care system. We are raising awareness about the needs of teen males in the foster care system in two special ways:
(1) Hosting our First Annual Pack A Backpack Drive to donate backpacks and personal hygiene items to teen males in foster care
(2) Using our BLOG as a platform to share real life stories about teen males who are about to age out of the foster care system and foster parents who are helping teen males successfully transition into adulthood
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit.
Rest if you must, But don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a person turns about,
When they might have won, had they stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow.
You may succeed with another blow.
Often strugglers have given up
When you might have captured the victor’s cup,
And you learned too late when the night came down,
How close you was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the cloud of doubt.
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,
It’s when things seem worst that you
What does “A Teen’s Life Is Worth Documenting” mean to you?
For a child in the foster care system it probably means those words that are written about them in their personal file. You know the file that precedes them at every meeting, placement, and court hearing. The file that attempts to explain the reason they entered foster care, the length of time in the system, the changes in schools, the number of foster placements, health concerns, and any mental health screenings and diagnoses. The file containing this documentation is extremely important right? Essential even?!
I’m not speaking of the file that documents the thoughts and judgments of countless social workers, lawyers, doctors, and educators and barely contains the views of the youth in foster care. The accomplishments, aspirations, and support systems in a teen’s life are worth documenting. Every teen is unique and full of promise and potential. My teens document their lives in a professional portfolio — a visual tool that gives employers, recruiters, scouts, and mentors a complete picture of who you are. I believe that a professional portfolio can be an integral element not only in building skills and confidence in youth but also in helping them develop and maintain crucial personal and professional connections.