Today I had one of the most rewarding experiences EVER. I went into a couple of seventh and eighth grade classes to do my very first T.A.L.K. (Talk About Love Kindly). At first, I was a little nervous about talking to teenagers—in fact, in the first class I could feel myself sweating a little and getting flushed. Were they going to care about anything I said, or were they just going to be happy that some strange girl was taking up their entire class time and they didn’t have to do work? I’m happy to report that the students were a real delight, and I loved all their questions! All in all, it was very interesting being back in a middle school setting, and trying to remember what it was like being twelve, thirteen, and fourteen. Their classrooms are colorful and they have windows, unlike my law school classrooms that are very bland and windowless. And I also really enjoyed being called Miss. Justine ha.
Getting to the real point of this post though, it was their “College T-shirt/Sweatshirt Day,” so I decided to show a little Gaucho pride and wore an old UC Santa Barbara shirt. That made it a little more fun, and even though I’m ten to twelve years older than these students, I went in there as their peer, really. I wanted them to see me as a peer, or as a big sister, because one of the main reasons for my even talking to them was to make sure they know that they have someone to turn to if they ever feel like they don’t have someone to turn to, or know whom to turn to.
The main focus of my talk, was to discuss abuse warning signs, how to take care of and look out for themselves individually AND for each other, and the importance of TALKING. Each of the students received one of my brochures, which has two lists—the warning signs, and how to help yourself and your family/friends. So, because these students are at the age where some of them are starting to date, or at least explore puppy love, I focused on dating abuse. I went through all of this by discussing my own story of abuse. However, I kept reminding them that abuse could exist at school amongst peers, outside amongst strangers, or even within their inner circles. I encouraged them to learn how to talk nicely and respectfully with one another, because words are far more powerful than we realize; and I also talked to them about how important it is to be able to be the greatest person you can be, and do so freely—it’s a blessing really, because sadly, not everyone in the world is so fortunate.
It was great. Through their questions, we talked about going forward in their education, and what I did when I was in grade school to get to where I am now. In one of the classes we even talked about fitness and health, traveling, and living your dreams as I feel like I’m doing now.
I made it a point to show them that no matter what big or small mishap happens in your life, nothing should ever stop you from being great—if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not moving forward.
I really hope all the best for these students, and children and teenagers alike around the world. There’s so much opportunity in this world, it makes me sad and frustrates me when someone tries to get in the way of another person taking advantage of those opportunities—especially in those as young as these students are. I also hope that, even if they didn’t get what I wanted them to get out of the talks today, that somewhere down the line they’ll remember something I said and it will help them in some way, or allow them to turn an opportunity into something great for themselves.
BIG LOVE & BIG HUGS