Why Teen Voices Matters
Teen Voices' programs and products are grounded in both research on girls and the real-world experience of staff and participants. Of the many critical needs of teen girls, what follows are some of the ones that we address and how:
- Quality out-of-school year-round learning
- Safe and supportive spaces
- Alternative magazine content
- Caring, consistent adults
More and better opportunities for quality out-of-school year round learning, especially focused on literacy and job readiness
At Teen Voices, girls learn transferable, concrete academic skills such as writing, research, and leadership and they learn job-hunting skills, giving them an edge on their peers at a time when job competition is fierce. When girls are involved in an academically and personally enriching program like Teen Voices, they have the foundation for long term success through college or work." According to researcher Beth Miller, differences in achievement between poor and middle-class children are rooted in inequities related to out-of-school time opportunities, particularly in the summer. Low-income urban youth need enrichment opportunities and jobs. Both are hard to get, especially now, when unemployment is at a record high. At Teen Voices, we also encourage girls to engage in technology by providing workshops geared towards skill development, providing exposure to potential career paths, and connecting them to women in the industry; there is ample evidence that girls who use technology and see it as useful are more likely to pursue it.
Safe and supportive spaces (physical and virtual) in which" adolescent girls can shape who they are becoming," and can challenge harmful stereotypes
Teen Voices is girls-only by design. Research shows that gender-specific programs are scarce, but offer girls unique benefits. As the only community-based media arts/journalism program for Boston teen girls, Teen Voices fills a void. Participants appreciate the single-sex aspect of the program—sometimes more than expected. For many, Teen Voices is the first safe space where they feel able to learn from other girls across lines of race, ethnicity, geography, and sexual orientation. They enjoy a sense of "sisterhood." " One girl says:
When I first came here I was thinking, 'too many females'But after the [other girls] opened up to meI knew thatmy journey here would be interesting and worth the while. I still don't have a mom, but I feel like I just got a whole bunch of new sisters.
Youth in general, and teen girls especially, are often shortchanged when it comes to leadership opportunities—in part because adults often underestimate their capabilities, and in part because girls often have conflicting feelings about being "in charge". In the safe, single-sex environment at Teen Voices, girls learn requisite skills and are put into leadership roles." We expand girls' ideas about what is possible by highlighting girl leaders and community activists. We teach girls that they have potential not only as leaders of tomorrow, when they are women, but as leaders of TODAY, as girls." Perhaps most important, Teen Voices gives girls hope, and the courage to identify and pursue their dreams with the expectation that they will be successful.
Alternative magazine content for teen girls because traditional magazines do not represent many girls' lives and looks
Teen Voices fills a huge media gap by offering readers down-to-earth stories, statistics, and resources. We challenge the status quo and change the status of girls and young women by presenting a view of girls that is more positive, more in depth, more diverse, and more supportive than mainstream images. Relatively little attention in today's mainstream media is given to girls; males, for example, outnumber females roughly 3 to 1 in films. On the occasions when girls and young women are seen, they are often stereotyped, ignored, marginalized, sexualized, or degraded. Girls in active leadership roles are rarely seen. Real day-to-day issues that confront girls are rarely discussed in depth, especially not from the perspective of girls. Coverage of "youth violence," for example, focuses almost solely on physical violence by and among boys and ignores the violence perpetrated by boys and men on girls, and relational violence among girls. Yet," statistics consistently indicate that one in four women will be emotionally, sexually, or physically abused during her lifetime, with young women aged 16-24 at greatest risk. Parents, like the media, often shy away from addressing difficult subjects with their daughters. Silence and/or denial are likely to perpetuate problems and lead to isolation, depression, and guilt among those who are victims.
Also, by teaching media literacy skills and presenting alternative viewpoints, we encourage girls to deconstruct mainstream images and direct their criticism at the media rather than at themselves for not living up to the idealized standards. Few organizations address these issues and increasingly, Teen Voices is viewed as an expert on girls' issues, media literacy, and media production by and about girls." Our Peer Leaders and staff give frequent presentations and workshops locally and nationally. There appears to be a gap in this type of professional development that requires expertise to address it.
Caring, consistent adults and college-aged and older women want opportunities to support girls' agency and equality 
College mentors serve as role models and sources of information and connections. The adults at Teen Voices foster both professional and personal growth. They teach job skills, offer job contacts and leadership opportunities, and help address gender gaps in fields such as technology. They represent a range of career options and may offer a new vision of job opportunities. Teen Voices offers girls many types of mentors—staff, college-aged women, and professional women from varied backgrounds. They function not only as teachers, supervisors, and advisors, but as role models, resources, facilitators of personal change, and advocates.
Saun Green is an African-American woman and the program director for Teen Voices. In her six years of developing program curricula and working directly with the girls, she says:
I love these girls because I used to be these girls. And there were strong women in my life who supported and encouraged me, who taught me skills and helped me see a way out of a life that was spiraling downhill all too fast...I consider this job a blessingI get to be a witness to the inception of lifelong change in the lives of the young peopleGirls share with us powerful stories about the pain they face—sometimes on a daily basis. We see tremendous resiliency and a desire to thrive versus giving up. Girls take their hardship and use it to fuel themselves toward excellence. They just need a little encouragement and guidance from us.
Given all the outlined needs above, we have identified a strategic approach to providing girls a safe space to learn skills and critical thinking while creating girl-generated media.
Andrew Sum, Director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, has found that working as a teen is often a critical first step to a successful career; for teens that get jobs, the "earning effect" lasts as long as 10 years
 But currently, less than 2 percent of the technologists working in the United States are women of color (National Science Foundation).
 See "Where Are the Girls? The State of Girls' Programming in Greater Boston" by Kathryn A. Wheeler, Rachel Oliveri, Ila Deshmukh Towery, and Molly Mead in collaboration with the Girls' Coalition Leadership Council, 2005.
 See "Exploring Girls' Leadership Research Review" by Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 2007.
 A recent study commissioned by Liz Claiborne found that although 1 in 4 teen girls reported experiencing verbal or sexual abuse in a romantic relationship, and 1 in 3 reported physical violence, 81% of parents surveyed did not believe that teen dating violence was a significant issue, and 54% of parents had not talked with their teen about it. This study illustrates girls' need for reliable, accurate sources of information and safe forums for discussing controversial topics.
 Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, 2008
 The multiple benefits of consistent, caring adults on youth are well-documented in research." For more information, see "Mobilizing" Adults for Positive Youth Development: Strategies for Closing the Gap between Beliefs and Behaviors" by Clary & Rhodes, 2006. Other writings include Leadbeater & Way, 1996/2007; Public/Private Ventures, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007; Rhodes, 2002; Taylor, Gilligan & Sullivan, 1995.