On Tuesday September 28, 2010 the T.A.P. After-school program at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders had a very special guest come and visit during their session. Jess Weiner is this generation’s “Go-to Girl” for self-esteem! Whether she is hosting a seminar for mothers and daughters on today’s pressure to be beautiful, writing her monthly columns for Seventeen Magazine and MSN.com, or speaking out on programs like Oprah, CNN, or The Today Show, Jess motivates women and girls around the globe to develop the tools for living a more confident life! Jess serves as the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, Her first book, “A Very Hungry Girl”, chronicles her own struggle in her teen years with body image, eating disorders and depression. Her second book, “Life Doesn’t Begin 5 Pounds From Now”, further explores how low self- image controls the way women think about their health, wealth, family, career, and relationships. She was recently named by Forbes.com as one of the 14 Power Women to Follow on Twitter! Since T.A.P. teaching artists Amy Downing and Jenn Hartmann are focusing their after school program at Ann Richards on the topics of self esteem and body acceptance, Jess Weiner was the perfect guest artist to come in and speak with the girls.
So how did Jess Weiner end up in a TAP classroom?
Jenn Hartmann, who is pursuing her MFA in Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities at UT Austin, had contacted Jess Weiner in the spring to discuss her thesis project which would explore the issues of self esteem and body acceptance in adolescent girls through creative writing, devising theatre and songs and public performance. Eventually they met in person and ever since, Jess has continued to be a mentor and supporter of Jenn’s work. It then came to be that Jess Weiner was coming out to Austin to conduct a workshop at another school and she offered to come visit the girls at Ann Richards.
The first part of the visit included a brief meeting with the Director’s of the school, Ms. Jeanne Goka and Texanna Turner, along with the core facilitators of the after-school program, Amy Downing, Jenn Hartmann and ARS Middle School Counselor Christena Rutz. The meeting was arranged mostly because Jess wanted to touch base with the Director’s after having met them all a few years ago at the Girl’s Now Conference which was held on the ARS campus. But ultimately, the meeting became an amazing opportunity for Mr. Goka and Ms. Turner to learn more about the amazing program T.A.P. is conducing on their campus after school. We discussed the work the girls were doing and even discussed what future programs centered on themes of self esteem and body acceptance might look like on the ARS campus. The girls and the TAP teachers have come up with the program title: T.A.P. into Your Self Esteem – and we all kinda like it. Maybe there is a future!
Once we moved into the space with the girls, we did our normal check in, which always includes us asking the girls (and ourselves) “What did you do to improve someone’s self esteem today?” And then we gave the floor to Jess. Since we only have an hour after school at ARS, the time flew and we spent the majority of our time talking about the voices in our heads. The voices that support us, love us, encourage us and then, of course, the voices that tear us down, demean us, disrespect us, and keep us from living our fullest potential. While we didn’t have enough time to get this conversation up on its feet, it is Amy and Jenn’s intention to do exactly that. We will be sure to let you know how it turns out!
Ultimately, the final presentation at ARS will be a performance collage. The girls are writing poetry, music, monologues, scenes, letters, short stories, anything that they are inspired to write as we discuss and explore our content area – and it will move from the very personal page to the very public stage.
Jess Weiner is a super fan of the girls at Ann Richards and hopefully now she is also a fan of Theatre Action Project.