I lost my teen years to drugs and alcohol. As a child, I had so much energy, so much potential, so much caring but all of it was crushed beneath the weight of confusion, lack of support and burdens no child should have to face. With no creative outlets and, in my mind, only one unhealthy way to relate to the world, I shut down.
But I survived. Now in long-term recovery, supporting teens as part of Project AWARE, a youth empowerment program based in Maine, is my way of offering young people healthy choices I did not have. Our organization and others like it make it possible for teens to tell stories through film in a powerful way that makes a difference. The creative and social process changes their lives. It also provides a learning environment for marketable skills such as public speaking, creative thinking, writing, movie production, and teamwork.
Adolescents have an immense amount of energy and creativity they need to express. It is a part of evolution for teenagers to push the edges. That is where innovation and new ideas emerge. When youth are given healthy channels and support, amazing things happen. When they are left out of healthy opportunities that energy can get lost in sad, often tragic directions.
That’s where programs like Project AWARE can change lives by offering teenagers a supportive, non-judgmental community that fosters creativity and collaboration. Our projects have involved hundreds of teenagers directly as producers, writers, directors, cast and crew. Overall, Project AWARE youth have created over 20 PSAs and 12 short movies about issues they have faced including bullying, self-harm, suicide, anxiety, depression, opiates, underage drinking and more. Thousands attend premieres, presentations and workshops. And tens of thousands view the youth-created high-quality videos. (You can see some of these youth-created movies here
The films we do also help adults understand that young people experience hardship, stress and anxiety; and bad choices often happen as a result. Besides the fact that there are adolescent hormones to deal with there’s also unstable family situations, chemical imbalances, unhealthy food intake, difficult relationships, stress at school, and so much more.
Young people who understand the issues that are affecting them tell powerful real-life stories. Faith-Ann Bishop, now 20 and one of the subjects of TIME’s recent cover story on anxiety and depression, wrote and directed movies for Project AWARE as a high school student in Maine. She based them on her experiences with self-harm, and depression / anxiety. And there’s Ema, who shared her story through a movie about family troubles and how that impacted a young woman’s life; middle school age youth who created PSAs and movies on bullying; and a group of incarcerated young people who created the movie Hooked on teen heroin use.
Project AWARE has some limited ability to consult with your community as you develop youth empowerment programs. There are many other organizations like ours around the country (your local YMCA can be a good place to start), and our hope is that caring adults and communities find a way to support these initiatives in their own communities so that more kids are able to access them.
In addition, the Search Institute offers programs for teachers, counselors and other education professionals that help identify specific skills, interests or passions that motivate youth and give them a sense of purpose, focus, and future orientation.
These skills and experiences, such as positive adult relationships, services to others, and creative activities help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. The organization has documented 40 of these assets through research and data collection that included millions of young people.
Parents anywhere in the U.S. or Canada can work together to bring Challenge Day to their communities. This life-changing program helps people learn to connect through powerful school-based activities such as the day-long, interactive Challenge Day program which provides teens and adults with tools to tear down the walls of separation, and inspires participants to live, study, and work in an encouraging environment of acceptance, love, and respect. Their programs inspire youth and communities to “Be the Change” they wish to see in the world, and challenge others to do the same.
Supporting our youth in having a voice and being heard works. Young people in our communities are ready to lead and raise awareness from their perspective and in their voice about the issues they think are important. Let’s take advantage of this amazing, powerful resource.
You can connect with us at www.projectaware.net where you can download a free “Youth Empowerment Workshop Handbook.”
Carl Lakari is the co-founder of Project AWARE. This story was written with the contributions of Project AWARE teens Nadia Schmid Lakari, Ryan Abdul , and adult Co-Founder Katey Branch.
A team of 20 students who attended a Project AWARE Film Institute created the movie and 2 PSAs. The summer program supports teens in telling real life stories in a powerful way. Young people create high quality movies that address social issues and make a difference. Simply put, the process changes their lives. The Institute simultaneously empowers and builds sense of worth in the youth, while also providing up-to-date information to the broader community. The dialogue that follows plays a critical role in beginning to shift social norms resulting in healthier young people. It also increases marketable skills in students as they prepare themselves for the job market.
Self-harm continues to be a big issue among youth. Adolescents are at an increased risk, with recent data showing that approximately 15% of teens reporting some form of self-harm. The writer and director of the movie Faith Bishop along with the teen cast and crew wanted to make this movie to start a conversation and raise awareness about the issue. Many of the youth creators were interviewed during filming about self-harm and a short video with those interviews are available at this link: a better place. Interviews with Teens
NAMI Maine Helpline 1-800-464-5767 Available Monday-Friday during office hours as a resource for education and support as well as treatment recommendations.
Maine Crisis Hotline 1-888-568-1112 Maine,s 24 hour crisis services; clinical staff available to address immediate needs and assist with referrals for services.
Acadia Hospital 1-800-640-1211 mental health treatment and support
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727) for mental health
Helping Teens Who Cut; Understanding and Ending Self Injury. Michael Hollander. 2008, Guilford Press. An excellent book for parents, professionals or the general public to better understand Self-injury and the ways to get help to stop a pattern.
The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-Inflicted Violence Tracy Alderman
Excellent information for family members & professionals on a wide range of self-injury topics.
Sponsored by: City of Biddeford, Maine Behavioral Healthcare, Acadia Hospital, WABI, Rotary Club of Saco Bay, Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club, Biddeford Public Access, Biddeford School Department, The Bingham Program, Maine Community Foundation, Biddeford Savings Bank, P & C Insurance, Peoples Choice Credit Union, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution, Bangor Daily News and Kennebunk Savings Bank.
Project AWARE is partnering with the Biddeford School Department to engage over 130 teens and adults in the Biddeford Reel Life Project and create a of 30 minute dramatic movie that raises awareness about substance abuse, sexual health, family issues and stress amongst teens. The project is an initiative to start conversations and educate about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by providing education to younger children, peers, educators, parents and pre-parents about how ACEs create toxic stress and how that impacts brain development. It will also address the cultural heritage of Biddeford and the impact it had on recent generations as well as today.
The program includes teens who are at-risk and will result in the support of numerous teachers, parents and other community members; service learning opportunities and increase of the marketable skills of young people; improved climate for teens at school and in their community as they work on a project together with adults to make a difference; a special Premiere event at the Biddeford City Theater focused on celebrating youth; and a 30 minute movie on DVD covering the issues of substance abuse, sexual health, family issues including child abuse and neglect, and stress caused by family and school pressures. The DVD will also include educational special features with interviews by teens and adults discussing both their good and bad experiences as young children and how that has impacted them. Additional video features will focus on the cultural heritage of Biddeford from a teen perspective. Curriculums will be developed to complement the DVD.
The project offers life-changing opportunities for youth often struggling to find their place and realize their dreams amid economic and social hardships. We encourage you to watch a 5-minute testimonial at the following link to hear from one such young person involved in the 2010 project April’s Heart. http://goo.gl/rxugX
Project AWARE is thrilled to be offering Reel Life in the Biddeford community. Sponsors of the project include: City of Biddeford, Biddeford School Department, The Bingham Program, Maine Community Foundation, Biddeford Savings Bank, P & C Insurance, Peoples Choice Credit Union, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and Kennebunk Savings Bank.
Project AWARE provides workshops, presentations, and the Reel Life program that includes the Summer Film Institute for youth as well as targeted filmmaking that produces high quality, dramatic educational short movies and PSAs created by young people. The organization has created 10 movies and over 20 PSAs. For more information visit: www.projectaware.net.
Scarborough Teen Leaders
Project AWARE teams up with the Scarborough High School for an innovative student-driven educational program. The Reel Life Program simultaneously educates, empowers and builds a sense of worth in youth, while also providing up-to-date information to the
broader community. While funds are still needed for the project, it is expected that students from Scarborough High School will work closely with Project AWAREto create a dramatic 30 – 45 minute movie highlighting substance abuse as an important issue that in some way touches the life of almost every teen. The movie will serve to bring this topic out of the shadows in an honest and real way. The project provides a unique opportunity for students to employ their skills and interests in a variety of areas from writing to acting, filming and directing. The film they create will be used as a teaching tool in classrooms to generate conversations that have a lasting impact on individuals and school climate as a whole. And the movie will play on TV for thousands more.
Untying the Knot of Substance Abuse
Substance use and abuse is a widespread issue that effects the life of every teen and making healthy choices can be challenging, given the daily pressures teens face. It is well documented among teens in Maine, with alcohol and marijuana use at the top of the list. Results of the 2011 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) for high schools in Cumberland County reveal the following information about substance use among teens. Among seniors, 41.6% indicated they drank alcohol in the past 30 days. With regard to marijuana use, 30.9% of seniors reported use in the past 30 days. Additionally, there is an upward trend in teens’ perception that there is minimal health risk for marijuana usage. These statistics do not include the many other ways students are affected by substance use, including use within their homes. There are many reasons teens choose to use substances and it can lead to addiction which can be painful and severe. Through this project, the perceptions of teens and the influence that parents, educators, and society have will send a powerful message, and have lasting impact.
Scene from Influenced
Through education and programming the project will reach over 150 youth and many adults during the course the year. And then with the resulting movie, thousands more through DVD and on TV. It will positively impact the school environment and produce healthier better-educated youth with real life, project-based, team-focused, movie-making experience!
Project AWARE will partner with the Biddeford School Department to engage over 130 teens and adults in the Biddeford Reel Life Project and create a of 30 minute dramatic movie that raises awareness about substance abuse, sexual health, family issues and stress amongst teens. The movie and accompanying features will also explore the cultural heritage of Biddeford from a youth perspective. The programs will be produced by teens, with the support of Project AWARE in 2013 and early 2014.
The program includes teens who are at-risk and will result in the support of numerous teachers, parents and other community members; service learning opportunities and increase of the marketable skills of young people; improved climate for teens at school and in their community as they work on a project together with adults to make a difference; a special Premiere event at the Biddeford City Theater focused on celebrating youth; and a 30 minute movie on DVD, with accompanying educational special features, which will be used as a learning tool for the City, it’s schools and beyond.
The Project AWARE Reel Life Program includes the Summer Film Institute for youth as well as targeted filmmaking that produces high quality, dramatic educational short movies and PSAs created by young people. The program supports teens in telling real life stories in a powerful way.Young people create impactful, high quality movies that address social issues and make a difference. Simply put, the process changes their lives. The Reel Life Program simultaneously empowers and builds sense of worth in the youth, while also providing up-to-date information to the broader community. The dialogue that follows plays a critical role in beginning to shift social norms resulting in healthier young people. It also increases marketable skills in students as they prepare themselves for the job market. As a result of this program, teens with the support of Project AWARE, have produced over 20 PSAs and 9 movies with 5 more in production about issues including prescription drug abuse, bullying, adult role modeling, teen sexual health, and more. Collaborators have included the Maine Department of Education, Acadia Hospital, City of Sanford, City of Biddeford, and Family Planning Association of Maine.
Project AWARE is thrilled to be offering Reel Life in the Biddeford community! We also want to thank our sponsors: City of Biddeford, Biddeford Savings Bank, P & C Insurance, Peoples Choice Credit Union, Saco & Biddeford Savings Institution and Kennebunk Savings Bank.
This short, dramatic film was written, directed, acted in, and filmed by teens from all over Maine in 2012 as part of Project AWARE’s Summer Film Institute. The creators wanted to share the story of one teen girl struggling with marijuana dependency as a coping mechanism for the things she is dealing with on a day-to-day basis. The movie is meant to start a conversation about marijuana and the effect it can have on a young person. Since it is hard to talk about , the creative team behind Smoke Rings hope the movie will create an opportunity for teens and adults to have a constructive discussion.
Note: Substance abuse education and prevention should be a year-long effort in schools. Smoke Rings is intended to complement existing education efforts and not stand alone for one-day or short term events or programs.
SMOKE RINGS IS AVAILABLE FREE OF CHARGE BY CLICKING THE YOUTUBE LINKS BELOW. FOR FULL SCREEN VIEWING OR PROJECTING IN A CLASSROOM IN HD ONCE YOU CLICK ON THE VIDEO THEN CLICK ON THE YOUTUBE SYMBOL IN THE LOWER RIGHT CORNER AND ADJUST SETTINGS (little wheel bottom right) AS NEEDED IN THE NEW SCREEN. FOR HD VIEWING YOU WILL NEED TO WAIT FOR THE VIDEO TO LOAD BEFORE PLAYING.
SMOKE RINGS a short dramatic movie created by teens
SMOKE RINGS COMMENTARY
Teens creators talk about the movie and the issue.
THE MAKING OF SMOKE RINGS
Take a trip behind the scenes at the Project AWARE Summer Film Institute.
The Like-A-Thon contest features a $100 cash prize! Project AWARE is at 951 Likes (as of 11/14/12). We think a magic number is 1,000! If we reach 1,000 or more by 10 PM on November 25th we will send $100 to the person who gets us the most Likes.
The steps are:
1. Sign up for the contest by posting on Project AWARE’s wall by Saturday November 17th at midnight. Use these key words: “Youth Voice Now!” and anything else inspiring you want to add ☺. WE LOVE INSPIRATION.
2. Look for a Like-A-Thon status update on Sunday November 18th. It will give you the final IMPORTANT details about how it will work. Contest will officially start at 3 PM that day.
3. Once you know what has to happen – starting on the 18th, start talking to your friends and sharing the page, and ask them to Like Project AWARE!
4. During the contest – once they Like Project AWARE – they will have a way to identify you as being the person who encouraged them to do so. (How? announced on Sunday Nov. 18 in the status update)
5. Contest ends on November 25th at 10 PM. Winner announced November 26th. Everyone except 2 adult administrators of the Project AWARE Page are eligible!
Clearly this is not a perfect science … but if you put lots of energy in and get lots of likes you have a great chance to win! Good luck and have fun! THIS WILL HELP PROJECT AWARE A LOT! THANK YOU.
We must have at least 10 contestants signed up for the contest to begin.
Contestants must be identified as getting at least 7 Likes to be eligible to win.
Please note this is a first time we are running this contest – please forgive us in advance for any confusion or errors. Ask questions by sending us a message on Facebook or e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project AWARE provides workshops, presentations, and the Reel Life program that includes the Summer Film Institute for youth as well as targeted filmmaking that produces high quality, dramatic educational short movies and PSAs created by young people. The mission of the organization is to “empower young people to lead”.
Project AWARE is about real life teens telling real life stories in a powerful way. Young people in the program create impactful, high quality movies that address social issues and make a difference. Simply put, the process changes their lives. It also provides a learning environment for marketable skills – not only the technical aspects of movie making but also public speaking, creative thinking, writing, and much more.
Programs and videos, along with more information, are available by contacting the Coordinator at email@example.com or 207-282-5598.
This past year over 500 young people were directly involved as writers, directors, cast and crew in creating 4 high quality video products on teen health including nutrition, physical activity, bullying prevention, tobacco prevention, substance abuse prevention, mental health, and teen sexual health. Partners included the Maine Dept. of Education, Family Planning Assoc. and Acadia Hospital. Overall, Project AWARE youth have created 20 PSAs and 8 movies with 4 more in production. In addition, thousands more attended premieres, presentations and workshops. And tens of thousands viewed Project AWARE videos on YouTube and TV including WPXT in Portland and WABI in Bangor.
A recent film, April’s Heart, received the young filmmakers award at the Litchfield Hills Film Festival and Iowa Film Festival. April’s Heart tears the mask off of youth so we can see inside. It’s a story set in a time when life can be hard; a story that gives us an intimate look at the challenges, hopes and dreams of teenagers.
To see the April’s Heart trailer please go to this blog post:
Hip-Hop Artist Spose Highlights
The First Annual Concert For Bullying Awareness in Maine
Project AWARE, in conjunction with 94.3 WCYY, will collaborate with Spose and other local artists to benefit Bullying Awareness in Maine
October 13, Asylum, 121 Center St. Portland Maine ALL AGES SHOW
Doors open at 1 PM. This show could sell out. Get your tickets early at www.portlandasylum.com or any Bull Moose location. Tickets on sale at the door – subject to availability.
All Proceeds help Project AWARE continue its efforts to support Maine teens.
Highlighting the event is Spose, a well-known Maine hip-hop artist known for his song I’m Awesome. He recently released a new album The Audacity.
His line up of songs will include Jimmy! from The Audacity. Jimmy! addresses the topic of bullying. Spose will collaborate later this year with Project AWARE to create a powerful new music video for the song. The project will engage over 100 young people in planning and production. This is a great example of how musicians and youth can collaborate to make a difference.
Local musicians will join Project AWARE, WCYY and Spose including Steiner Street, Beware of Pedestrians, Better Than, The Running Gags, God.Damn.Chan and Dean Ford.
Spose with PA Youth
Project AWARE is a non-profit organization with a mission to “empower young people to lead” and provides workshops, presentations, and the Reel Life Program. The Reel Life Program addresses bullying and other issues by working with teens to produce high-quality movies and PSAs. As a result of this program, teens with the support of Project AWARE have produced 16 PSAs and 7 movies. See PSAs and trailers on YouTube.
The First Annual Concert For Bullying Awareness in Maine
is sponsored by WCYY and the Asylum.
Please share this post! For more information contact Project AWARE at 207-282-5598 or firstname.lastname@example.org