“Why Try” Program Teaches Students Respect

by Callie Sanders, Courier & Press, June 2, 2015 –

Youth First uses the “Why Try” program in area schools to teach resiliency, respect for self and others, and everyday success. Many of the lessons from this program can be carried forward and applied to daily living.

Students receive knowledge and tools that will help them handle stress and cope with difficult situations and differences in others. More importantly, class members create a bond and know they are not alone.

One lesson that usually resonates with students is “Tearing Off Labels.” Canned goods are used to draw an analogy that everyone is labeled. We discuss how some labels are good and some are bad.

In a group setting, students usually do a wonderful job identifying positive and negative labels. Further discussion identifies strategies to receive and keep positive labels as well as skills that can be used to overcome negative ones. Students are given the freedom to choose which label they prefer. They are also challenged to remain open and “not judge a book by its cover” when it comes to differences in others.

The “Why Try” program encourages self-efficacy. Self-efficacy has been defined as one’s belief in his/her ability to succeed in certain situations.

Class members are encouraged to look inward and focus on the “Real Me” through a series of thought provoking questions:

  • What do I like about myself?
  • What do others like about me?
  • What have I accomplished?
  • What are my strengths, goals and dreams?
  • If I had to label myself, what would the label be?

Answers must be positive, and group members are asked to answer questions honestly. This task can be daunting for students with low self-esteem and those who choose to hang on to negative labels.

Therefore, the concept of “self-talk” is introduced. Students begin to understand the power in our thoughts. Are their thoughts positive or negative? They learn that how we view ourselves has a direct correlation to how we treat ourselves and others.

The lesson also teaches four proactive steps to get rid of labels:

  • Stop living up to your label. Prove your label wrong!
  • Remember, it is easy to prove that your label is true; just keep doing the same things.
  • Your label is from the past. Today you either need to keep it or start tearing it off.
  • Let the “Real Me” out so much that past negative labels must be torn off.

These four proactive steps encourage students to use the techniques learned to help face everyday challenges they deal with personally and inter-personally.

Improved self-esteem is a catalyst for better behavior, which can lead to tearing off negative labels and promoting positives ones. The goal is to motivate students to accept themselves and others. I encourage students to embrace their individuality and to not be afraid to embrace others and their differences.

Why try? There is always room for personal growth even when others remain stagnant and hold on to their labels. Never give up!

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