What I Learned from Project AWARE Teens

The premiere of the short dramatic film Two Seconds is less than three weeks away and we’re busy getting ready for the big night. As I’m pulling together this special event, I’ve been reflecting on the experience of working with a group of teens over the course of nearly a year.

When we started the project I didn’t know a single one of these young people and most of them didn’t know each other either. Ten months later I feel so lucky to have shared this time with them, working together to create movies to raise awareness of teen sexual health issues.

Here’s what I learned from the teens involved with this project…

Teens are yearning to talk with safe, caring adults about issues that matter to them. They want to talk about their hopes and dreams — and their fears. The FPA and Project AWARE staff and the parents involved in the project shared many meaningful conversations with teens through the course of the project. Many teens would love to talk with their parents about sexual health issues but they don’t know how to have the conversations. And, they’re not so sure their parents are up for it.

Young people’s lives are complex beyond my imagining. Friends, school, hobbies & extracurricular activities, parents and siblings, jobs, relationships — teens are more or less successfully managing the many parts of their lives. And they are doing it at a time when they are also trying to figure out who they are and what the future might hold for them. In addition, they are almost always communicating via texting and social media. It’s really a lot to be juggling!

Many teens carry an enormous amount of pain. In our planning meetings, on car rides, and during one-on-one conversations on filming days, I heard different young people share stories about their challenges — with substance use, abusive relationships, difficult family circumstances. Many young people are doing the best they can in the face of major life challenges.

Teens have an incredible capacity to stretch beyond perceived limits and to take on new challenges. Despite whatever life was throwing at them, the teens I met through this project were still stepping up and doing what needed to be done. They showed up for countless meetings, they hung in there through long days of filming, they worked together as a team even though they hardly knew each other when the project began. And, in the end, they created some strong bonds of friendship and several terrific movie products!

Even though the teens could exhaust me, I really miss them! As busy as we were during the months of this project, through all of the evening meetings and Saturday filming marathons — when we wrapped up the planning and production parts of the project, I found myself really missing my regular contact with the young people involved.

I can’t possibly describe everything I experienced during this project and how Project AWARE is changing young people’s lives.  I’m limited by the use of words on a computer screen. Luckily, we have Two Secondsbecause this teen-created film speaks for itself.

I hope you will join us in Brunswick on Tuesday, October 23rd to celebrate these amazing teens and their amazing work.

~ Nancy Audet

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