One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to lead a Support Group each week. This year, I spent my Wednesday mornings with 6 high school students who laughed, questioned, shared, and began to trust each other by the end of our time together.
It was awesome.
But the best part came during our last meeting when the students had a chance to share encouragement with each other through symbols. Each group member passed their sheets around and added symbols to describe each person. Some of these symbols included things like: strong, easy to talk to, brave, calm, keep a secret, safe with, smart, and spend the day with. It was so encouraging to get your own sheet back and see what the group thought of you.
While I had fun looking at my own sheet, I loved hearing what symbols excited my teen friends. One boy was so excited because several people said they would like to “spend the day with” him. To give some context to this teenage boy, he consistently kept the group on our toes. He was routinely 10 minutes late to group, told the most outrageous stories, and always managed to sprinkle several curse words over the time we spent together.
Overall, he was a mess. But on this day, with these symbols, he was floored.
He smiled a huge smile and declared that he didn’t want group to end so we could continue hanging out each week.
As a group leader, this was a huge win! I was able to watch a student who had little confidence but always turned group into a joke come alive. After hearing what the other groups members had to say were our strengths, we then talked about our own inner strengths and how we can use them to help others. This same boy who rarely had a serious moment shared that he felt his strength was “persistence.” He talked about the ways he had overcome hard times but was still here and moving forward.
That is what we want to help all teenagers see as they go through Teen Life Support Groups. They have strengths. They have the ability to move forward, even when life is hard and unfair. They have people who are in their corner – peers and adults who are cheering them on.
Can you imagine going through High School with little confidence, support, or hope? How hard are those teenage years even in the best circumstances?
But we can help. We can give support, encouragement, hope, and a place to be safe and heard. We can give teenagers the gift of Support Groups! I am passionate about groups because I see the impact they have each week. And there is still time for you to join Teen Life and equip teenagers this holiday season!
You can equip, encourage, and empower students by giving to Teen Life!
May more students receive hope and support in 2019. May every school who needs Support Groups have access in the near future. May we all look for ways to help schools and students this season and the coming year!
If you want to be a part of a student’s story, you can give and sponsor a Support Group or teenager here.
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Marketing & Development Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
I looked around the circle of students seated around the table and saw little eyes staring back at me in anticipation. All of these students were from different parts of the world and had arrived in America as children of immigrants and refugees. None of them spoke english, and for the most part, none of them spoke the same language. Maybe it wasn’t anticipation in their eyes but more of a fascination of an english-speaking white dude like me who had no idea how to interact.
As I looked around the table, I saw one student whose eyes were not on me. In fact, we couldn’t see her eyes at all. She had her head down in her arms and didn’t speak. While all of the other students seemed excited about being in one of our Teen Life groups, she was not. She wanted nothing to do with it, or so I thought. In a lot of other situations, I would have pressed a little harder to get her to participate. But this time I didn’t for some reason. I felt like something was going on in her life that she needed to just be in the group – on her terms.
So week after week, I would meet with this little “mini United Nations” of students, and we would muddle through trying to communicate and understand what was going on. Did I mention there were seven different languages represented in that group? So as you can imagine, the challenges were immense! And that little girl still didn’t talk.
Maybe they just enjoyed seeing me struggle. Perhaps there was some respite in the idea that a privileged white American like myself was at a disadvantage. I’m sure it was entertaining to see me try to relate to students who had either moved to America because of persecution or to find a better life. But little by little, we started understanding each other. And, little by little, that girl started to raise her head. While she didn’t participate much, every now and then, we would catch a smile.
We would do activities like “fist to five”. This one is easy – just ask someone any question and they get to answer using the numbers 0-5 to tell you how they feel about it. “Fist” is the worst (or zero) and “Five” is the best. So I could ask them, “How is school going today?”, and they had an easy way to answer – by just using their hands! More importantly, I could ask them what would have to happen to add one number to their answer. That’s where the good stuff started happening. And as the weeks went on, our little girl finally started to talk.
It turns out my little friend had endured significant emotional, sexual, and physical trauma in her life – unspeakable things had happened to her in her home country. She spoke Swahili and went by what I believe was a pseudonym. It doesn’t sound like she had much safety in her life, but she found it in our group by simply being there and listening – not being forced to do anything she didn’t want to do.
I remember the last day of group. I had a tap on my shoulder, and I turned around to a little girl who had her hair done up and a really pretty dress on. She said, “Hi Mr Chris!!” At first I didn’t know who she was. But then I realized it was my little friend from group who, just seven weeks earlier, could not bring herself to make eye contact with anyone. She was walking with confidence and seemed excited about the world she was coming into.
Later I found out she has become a leader at this little international school. She would give tours to new students and families to welcome them to this school that had made such a difference in her life.
Some of you connected with Teen Life might not fully understand the impact of what we do and how our incredible volunteers make a difference in the lives of students year after year. Stories like this abound as our groups offer safety to students who need a place for support. We are unique in this space and how we do it.
And, the demand is growing. We have new school districts in new cities contacting us asking, “How do we get these groups on our campus?” In order to fulfill these requests, we need your support. Consider donating to our spring fundraiser as we build our funding to meet the needs of our community – and to help others as well.
Giving is simple and your dollar goes a long way. Please click the link below to make a donation!
Merry Christmas…and a Happy New Year from Teen Life!
We hope that you had a blessed Christmas and will have a Happy New Year. Once again, thank you for your continued support and encouragement. 2016 was our biggest year yet, and we are excited to continue to encourage, equip and empower teenagers to live life better! In case you have missed our last few updates, this year we presented at a National Conference, trained counselors to lead Teen Parent Support Groups in schools and served more school districts than ever before. We are excited for what 2017 will bring, but we need your help to continue growing and serving teenagers! It is not too late to give before the year is over and impact the lives of even more teens. Simply go to this link, watch our new awesome video and give online. Thank you for making the work we do with teen possible!
As a non-profit, we depend on the gifts and generosity of others to function and continue to run as an organization. On days like today (North Texas Giving Day), it is easy to bring awareness to giving. But why do we give? Does it actually help? What is in it for me?
These are questions I have asked myself many times, especially as a poor college student who had a desire to be generous but barely had money for all the fast food and shopping trips that occurred. That’s when I realized – it shouldn’t be about me, but giving does benefit me in a strange, backwards kind of way.
You probably have experienced the fuzzy feeling you get when you give a gift to a loved one, when you hand a $5 bill to the lady who needs a meal, or when you participate in a mission trip or service project and give of your time. You know that you gain moral and personal satisfaction from a warm smile, sincere thank you and the knowledge that you helped someone who was not able to help themselves in that moment.
However, did you know that giving also has health benefits?? Bonus! In a Huffington Post article, generosity is encouraged by the 7 science-backed benefits that are given. Generosity is good for your health because it is proven to:
Increase happiness at work
Benefit the greater good
Lengthen your life
Encourage more selfless acts
Strengthen your marriage
Promote mental heath
Sounds good to me! By helping others, you are also helping yourself.
But what if I don’t have money to give away? The great thing about generosity is that it doesn’t have to involve a pocket book! For my husband and I, we try to give generously when we can and have set aside funds for a couple of ministries. However, as a young, newly married couple, sometimes giving of our time and resources is more realistic. We might not be able to financially change a teenager’s life, but we can volunteer with a local youth group and give our time. We can’t clothe the nation of Haiti on our own, but we can donate shoes, food, time and other resources through mission trips.
One is not better than the other, but there are at least 3 major ways that you can be generous today!
Giving of your time.
Being generous with your time can mean countless things! See someone stuck on the side of the road? Pull over and help fix that flat. Set aside time to tutor students after school. Visit your local food bank and stock shelves. Find a mission trip that serves a population you are passionate about. Mentor teenaged parents through Teen Lifeline.
Sometimes, time and selflessly investing in the lives of others can change a life in ways money alone cannot.
Giving of your resources.
Have you been thinking of holding a garage sale, but the organizing is too much, it is too hot to sit outside and you know you won’t even make that much money? Consider donating items to a local non-profit or charity that will see those items get into the hands of people who need them. Donating clothes, shoes, food, school supplies, toys, furniture, cars and other material goods can get them off of your hands and into the home of those in need.
Giving of your finances.
Money is not the only way to be generous, but it is an excellent way to give to others! This could be a yearly donation to your local church or non-profit, perhaps you contribute to a fundraiser or run in a 5K, or maybe you have decided to sacrifice 2 cups of coffee a month and have committed to giving $10 each month. Whatever the amount, whichever organization, your money, sacrifice and generosity can be used to help and encourage others.
As I said at the beginning of this post, North Texas Giving Day is an excellent excuse to give generously, and you can find Teen Lifeline’s donation page here. There are other great organizations that you can generously give to, and we encourage you to find some way to benefit others (and yourself) by living generously!
If you are looking for an organization to help, a place to volunteer, a non-profit to take your money and use it to directly affect the lives of other, visit our “Get Involved” page and see if Teen Lifeline is a good fit for you!
Don’t wait until you have more money, time or resources – there is never enough of any of those things – but choose to use what you do have, however small, to impact those around you!
If you would like to support Teen Lifeline for North Texas Giving Day and take advantage of our $20,000 matching fund, please visit and give here to double your donation and help teenagers live life better!
Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about speaking life into students and encouraging them to live better stories.