When Growing Up Knowing (also known as GUK) receives a request for one of our three signature programs, the first step is to match a Facilitator to the Community Partner. The person implementing the program must be a good fit for the youth and parents/caregivers being served. The roster of Facilitators is impressive. In preparation for this piece, a few of them shared their thoughts about presenting programs for Growing Up Knowing and why they are committed to the organization’s mission.
The chosen facilitators all spend their days already immersed in helping children and families across Mississippi – working in varying fields like psychology, social work, education, and medicine. Each one brings their unique experiences and professional knowledge to the families we serve. They are an impressive group, and the Staff and Board of Directors are most grateful to have them share their time and talents in advancing the mission of Growing Up Knowing.
With busy personal and professional lives, why share precious evenings and weekends with Growing Up Knowing? Belief, passion, and commitment. All these professionals are fiercely committed to improving the lives of children and youth across Mississippi by empowering them to make smart decisions regarding their bodies. Below is a small sampling of our recent conversation with GUK’s Facilitators.
Shonnie Cooley, who has been at Parents for Public Schools for 14 years, currently serving as Community Liaison, shared this thought: “Youth are losing their right to make decisions. Governors, Legislators, and School Districts are all taking away youth’s ability to think for themselves. They should be able to choose what they read, learn, and do.” Monique Mapp, an educator for Jackson Public Schools with over two decades of experience, had this to say, “The choices surrounding sex will not go away just because we avoid the conversation.” Tierra Fountain, Program Manager for We2gether Creating Change in Drew, MS, serves youth in the Delta. “(GUK) gives hope that our youth can make more healthy and rational choices that could help their future…it helps young students become more aware of their surroundings and recognize signs of abuse.” Cheequanda McDonald works in behavioral health with both geriatric and adolescents in Lauderdale County. She believes participation in all three of Growing Up Knowing’s signature programs is “…important for families to build communication skills. Parents learn ways to communicate with their child, (figuring out) what works best for their family.” Kristina Fields is a licensed Social Worker, with 10 years’ experience working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings: “As Growing Up Knowing continues to thrive, I hope families become comfortable with engaging in open dialogue in their homes, empowering youth to gain the confidence to set (healthy) boundaries.”
The Facilitators are an integral part of Growing Up Knowing’s mission. They are the ones who share the most important and sometimes delicate information with youth and their parents/caregivers. The connection they make with the families who are served is extremely important and often life-changing. Empowering Mississippi youth to take ownership of their bodies and sexuality is a big job. The Facilitators of Growing Up Knowing are definitely up to the task.
Growing Up Knowing is a Jackson based nonprofit that works with children and their parents/caregivers to help families understand the language of denial and consent, empowering youth to have agency over their own bodies. This is done through the implementation of three signature programs: My Body My Boundaries for Early Childhood, My Body My Boundaries for Elementary students, and The ‘Tween Talk: Comprehensive Sex Education for Middle School students.
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