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12 Days of Giving – Day 11: Teaching youth to express their feelings through Project 11

December 24, 2020 9:20 am by Jason Friesen Dynamic Featured Image

Expressing yourself isn’t always easy. That’s the case for anybody but can be particularly true for youth. From navigating friendships, to facing the challenges of growing, young people are faced with a lot of situations that evoke the entire range of emotions from excitement to sadness and everything in between.

Grade 12 student Herlinda has felt all those emotions while growing up, but being introduced to Project 11 in middle school opened her eyes to ways of not letting her feelings conquer her.

“Being a Project 11 student for three years brought a lot more awareness to my mental health. We all face stress and I’ve learned different coping strategies that come in handy when things do become stressful.”

One of those coping strategies she learned while in the Project 11 program is the value of finding appropriate ways to express your feelings. Herlinda found her own way of doing that through writing and poetry.

As part of her journey through this process, she penned the following poem:

I was always connected and aware of my surroundings,
I knew who I was.
The flow of life wasn’t always steady though, and hurricanes overthrew. The density of the waves
clashed constantly, having nowhere to hide.
I was falling apart.
Those waves of feelings were consistent though, the feeling of unknowing deformed the unstable heights. My highs flatlined as everything slipped away, descending downward.
That was how it was supposed to be, right?
That was normal.
Wasn’t it?
I knew that crying showed signs of weakness, hence why I tried to avoid it. I had always been taught to toughen up. To be strong but never knew how to do it in the real way.
With no sense of what was going on, I looked around with blank stares, hoping that an answer would appear.
I sat and waited.
Attempted to branch outwards towards aid.
When I reached, I felt the warmth of the familiar faces, yet I didn’t want them to see me distorted
Not like that.
I covered up my insecurities, with layers of curtains.
How would I explain when they would find me buried beneath the fabric?
I curled in towards the darkness. My own roots hugged me closer together.
It was only me left.
I was all I had.

It’s obvious from her prose the type of anxiety that Herlinda was feeling about expressing herself, but the poem and Project 11 seem to have served as a solid first step to better mental health.

“As a teenager, our emotions change quite frequently. Our feelings go beyond the stereotypical emotions portrayed simply as sadness, joy, anger and so on. Our daily feelings become more complex, including anxious thoughts and feelings of stress. The Project 11 lessons opened up conversations about situations that were relatable, and they resonate with my classmates and I still to this day.”

The feelings that youth feel in their developing years don’t magically disappear as they become adults and transition out of school, which makes it important that they take mental health care strategies with them. Having a program like Project 11 engage students and give them healthy ways of coping with and communicating about feelings and mental health is crucial if students are to see impacts down the road – which Herlinda has.

“My teachers, family and friends all notice that I’m very different now compared to back then,” Herlinda said, comparing her current self to her middle school self. “I accept who I am and am proud of what I stand for. I have learned to love my own skin.”

Become a game changer for youth like Herlinda and give them the opportunity to learn how to express their feelings through Project 11 by DONATING TODAY!

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