Written By: Michael Readling of the Palm Beach Post!
Navigating the teen years can be difficult.
Loneliness, chaos, poor self-image can mingle intermittently with joy, happiness and pride. Confusion and fatigue are just a couple of the results.
Stories abound of the negative ways some teens cope with all those emotions, but there are other stories. The ones where teens come together to help their peers traverse the rough patches and ensure everyone receives the best chance at a successful life.
That is the reason the Stand UP Foundation was created almost two years ago. The foundation, which is based in Jupiter but caters to teens in Palm Beach and Martin counties, offers gender-specific peer-to-peer mentoring presented in a way that can get students excited, officials say.
The foundation offers three programs: Women Making Waves, Men Moving Mountains and Generation Stand UP. The first two are mentoring programs for girls and boys, while the third is the group’s outreach arm, designed to open the door for other students and to give back to the community.
“I love the fact that we have 31 high school girls in the program and, even though we just launched the boys program, we already have 15,” said Ashley Le Grange, director and founder of the Stand UP Foundation. “My heart is totally behind the kids. I’m hoping a lot of people find out about these events they put on and are able to come. This is a teen initiative. And I think if a teen is brave enough to realize they need help and reach out and ask for it, we should all be supporting that.”
Le Grange uses the foundation’s location in Jupiter near the river to its fullest extent, holding on-the-water sessions to teach life skills, build teamwork and address common issues – identified by teens – that they face every day and feel are important.
There is an open “Splash Sesh” the fourth Saturday of every month from 1 to 5 p.m. and then gender-specific sessions on other weekends during the month.
While the Women Making Waves and Men Moving Mountain groups are successful and effective, perhaps the most visible Stand UP Foundation event is the Generation Stand UP Music Fest. Upcoming festivals are scheduled for Saturday and June 4.
These festivals take over the Harbourside Place amphitheater in Jupiter, combining live music education, entertainment and other services into one jam-packed evening by the water.
Each festival has a theme, which is determined by the teens, planned by the teens and then facilitated by Le Grange, who scours her vast directory of sources for experts to invite to speak at the event.
April, for example, was called “Rock Out to Knock Out Unhealthy Relationships” and included material about healthy friendships and relationships, the identification of abuse and warning signs, social media impacts on relationships and promoting self-esteem, among others. In keeping with the theme, Title Kick Boxing of Jupiter gave a Self Defense 101 class for everyone who showed up. The night ended with a performance by Somnis, a band formed by local teens.
This month’s event – “Loving The Me I See” — will focus on healthy body images, social media’s impact on self-esteem, eating disorders and warning signs and overall general nutrition. There will be several professionals on hand to discuss those topics, as well as other local businesses that fit the theme and then, as always, a local teen band to finish it off.
“We try to have all of our teen bands be local bands and we have them with students who go to many different schools,” Le Grange said. “And these are really good bands. Jumbo Shrimp, which will play at the June event, has played at places like the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame and SunFest and a bunch of other venues. They have a lead singer who is a freshman and is really good.”
Despite all the on-stage success, Le Grange said she is especially proud of the fact that the teens who put the events together are in such a competitive environment all day, but can still come together to form a collaboration in order to make the events come off as well as they possibly can.
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