Empower Youth Leadership

Youth leaders creating change in our community!

A fundraising campaign for EmpowerMT

Today 1 in 4 of Montana’s students woke up dreading going to school. This is because they know they are about to have to suffer through another day of bullying. 13% of those students will not go to school today because they don’t feel safe, 19% will attempt suicide and 32% will use prescription drugs without a doctor's permission. 40% of those students were bullied because they are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ) or are perceived to be LGBTQ.

Last night 350 Montana children under the age of 18 did not have a home to sleep in. 131 of those children had no shelter at all and 9 of those without shelter also did not have an adult with them. National statistics tell us the between 20% and 40% of those children who are homeless are homeless because they have been pushed out of their house because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Bullying, suicide and homelessness are critical issues facing youth in Montana. However, there is hope! There is hope because, with EmpowerMT’s support, Montana’s youth are leading the way to transform our communities to make sure that all people feel safe, have emotional and mental support and have a roof over their head.

Last year 54 high school students attended EmpowerMT’s Advanced Leadership Training and were empowered with skills to become peer-facilitators of our bullying prevention school trainings. Those 54 students impacted 2400 of their peers across the state of Montana. A team of EmpowerMT’s LGBTQ youth have also been tackling the issue of teen homelessness by educating service providers and policy makers about the realities facing LGBTQ homeless youth.

You can help make every student feel safe at school. 
You can help young people choose life instead of suicide.
You can help make sure all young people have a roof over their head.
You can empower Montana’s youth to transform our communities.
Donate today!

Wow! Thank you so much!

May 5, 2017

We are still tallying the final numbers but between the Empowering Youth Leadership and Missoula Gives it looks like we raised $11,700. It is still possible that a few more donations will come in from Missoula Gives so we still have a chance to make our $12,000 goal. We will do a more formal recap next week but I just wanted to say a big thank you to you right now!

Jesse Jaeger

Operations Director

Missoula Gives has started with EmpowerMT on Top!

May 4, 2017

Missoula Gives has kicked off and because of all the support we have already received we started off with the most raised ($7,811) and the most donors (58). Because of that we earned an extra $250 as an award. That means we only have $1539 to raise by 6pm tomorrow to meet our goal. We can do it!!!

You can help us get there by taking a minute and asking your friends to join you in supporting EmpowerMT. 

Thanks for all your support!!!

The power of youth leadership!

May 1, 2017

We are now in the last 4 days of our Empowering Youth Leadership campaign and we only have $2,674 more to raise to reach our goal.

Friday night we got to see the power of youth leadership with the Youth Homelessness Sleep Out. Thirty members of the community participated in the youth led teach-in and then 13 youth spent the night to call witness to the issue of youth homelessness. We heard about the statistics around youth homelessness in Missoula, learned about resources that exist in our community like the Salvation Army's Teen Drop in Center, discussed the systemic issues facing homeless youth and heard the direct stories of those who have faced homelessness as a youth. We also got a chance to watch the documentary "The Homestretch."

This last week we will be telling stories of youth making an impact in their communities. When have you seen youth helping to change our community? Tell that story on your social media and help us finish this campaign strong! #YouthLeadNowMT

Montana has the 5th highest rate of unaccompanied youth homelessness

April 24, 2017

When many of us think about homelessness we think about people sleeping in the door way of an office building or in a tent under a bridge. And while that is the experience of some homeless youth, the most common situation is for homeless youth to "couch surf" from friends couch to friends couch. A lot of times these are older friends who have a small apartment with several other youth staying in that one place.

We have now moved into the second week of our "Empowering Youth Leadership Campaign" and this week we will be talking about youth homelessness. EmpowerMT has started talking about youth homelessness more recently because our youth leaders have been calling on us to do it. On a regular basis we learn that one of our youth leaders is homeless. Sometimes they are pushed out of their home because of their sexual orientation, sometimes it is because of drug use in the home, and other times it is about abuse and family conflict.

All this week we will be talking about the issue of youth homelessness building up to the Homeless Youth Sleep Out and Teach-In Friday April 28th. The event will be held at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church (130 S. 6th St. W. Missoula) and will feature a youth led teach-in about youth homelessness, a showing of the documentary film "The Homestretch" and youth leaders sleeping out over night to provide a public witness to the issue of youth homelessness. We hope you can join us for the teach-in and documentary showing sections of this event which are open to the public.

After relationship conflict a dangerous time for youth who are at risk of suicide

April 21, 2017

Most youth who commit suicide in Montana do so right after relationship or family conflict and during the after school hours. Make sure that young people have a safe place to process their feelings and build authentic relationships is critical. Also, have a place to go after school with supportive peers and mentors is critical to preventing suicide.

EmpowerMT's Empowering People Inspiring Change (EPIC) after school clubs creates this type of safe space in all three of Missoula's Middle Schools and three Missoula Elementary Schools. Each year about 100 youth take part in these clubs and find a place to get support from peers and adult mentors as well as to develop leadership skills to make their schools more inclusive to all people.

End of Week #1!

We have almost completed our first week of the Empowering Youth Leadership Campaign. The staff and board would like to thank all those who have contributed so far for helping to make the campaign a great success! As of the writing of this update we have raised $4,429 (not including our matching gift). That is 37% of our goal and we are only a 1/3 of the way through the campaign!

More importantly we want to thank everyone who has been joining the conversation at #YouthLeadNowMT. We have seen lots of people sharing our posts and talking about how youth leaders are addressing the issue of suicide in our community. Next week we will be starting to talk about teen homelessness. Mark your calendars for Friday April 28th for the Youth Homelessness Sleep Out. From 7pm to 11pm there will be a youth led teach-in talking about the issue of youth homelessness that is open to the public so you should come on down to Holy Spirit Episcopal Church at 130 S. 6th st W. and check it out. After that youth groups from across Missoula will be sleeping outside to call witness to the issue of youth homelessness.

Young men make up 81% of completed youth suicides in Montana

April 20, 2017

In Montana and across the United States there is a crisis going on with young men. In a 2013 Ted Talk former NFL player Joe Ehrmann talks about how modern understanding of "being a man" has turned into toxic masculinity. In our modern world young men have been taught that their worth is defined by physical prowess, sexual conquest and the ability to make money.

This toxic masculinity has had devastating consequences. The sexual assault crisis on the University of Montana campus is a direct result of the rape culture that grows out of toxic masculinity. The fact that young men make up the majority of students who are dropping out of high school grows out this culture of toxic masculinity. And the fact that young men have easy access to guns in Montana, paired with the pressure put on by toxic masculinity has led to the fact that young men make up 81% of completed youth suicides in Montana.

EmpowerMT has been working on how to re-frame masculinity way from the toxic space it holds now in our culture. For two years we piloted the Boys Respecting all Diversities (B-RAD) program that worked with elementary and middle school boys to explore healthy expressions of their masculinity. We have taken learnings from that program and incorporated them into our after school programs for boys and girls, Empowering People Inspiring Change (EPIC). We are currently exploring how to continue our work with young men, especially at the high school level.

One more note about this topic. 63% of completed youth suicides in Montana are done using fire arms while that number is 39% in the rest of the United States. Safe storage of fire arms is a critical component of preventing suicide for young people in our community. If you have a gun in your house here is a helpful resource on ways to store that gun safely.

Native American Youth Make up 18% of the completed youth suicides in Montana

April 19, 2017

Native American youth have one of the highest rates of completed suicides in the state of Montana. 18% of completed youth suicides are Native American. Native American youth are more likely to get bullied and be the victims of violence. There is also a lack of financial support for culturally relevant mental health treatment for Native Americans, especially youth.

However, there is also a lot of resiliency with in the Native American community and active resistance to racist acts being led by Native American youth. When an act of racism occurred at the Polson High school it was Native American youth who are with our friends at Native Generational Change who stood up and said it was wrong. Marita Growing Thunder, who has spoken at both EmpowerMT's MLK Day Celebration and Diversity Day Celebration has been raising awareness about the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. And EmpowerMT is proud of our very own Sydnie Sinclair, who has been a long time EmpowerMT youth leader, whose senior project this year is planning Rodeo in Drummond on May 28th to raise awareness and money to support suicide prevention (see photo below).

Following the direction of Native American youth and adult leaders within EmpowerMT we have been working to strategically expand our programs into reservation communities over the past several years. We have had teachers and students from Two Eagle River and Polson High School attend our last two High School Advanced Leadership summer camps and we have been providing trainings for teachers and parents in the Flathead Valley.

On another note the fundraising campaign is going great! If we raise just $295 more we will earn a $1500 matching gift. Share this campaign with some friends and help us get that extra $1500!

36% of youth who attempt suicide where bullied because they are LGBTQ

April 18, 2017

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer youth is one of the most at-risk populations in Montana. They represent a high percentage of those who attempt and complete suicide and they represent a high percentage of the youth homeless population. 36% of youth who attempt suicide have reported being bullied because they are LGBTQ or they are reprieved as being LGBTQ.  

EmpowerMT supports the leadership of LGBTQ youth with our Youth Forward after school program in Missoula and by supporting the development of GSA's in schools across Montana. Youth Forward and school based GSAs provide a safe space for LBGTQ youth to explore their identity, get peer and mentor support and develop leadership skills to help make Montana a more inclusive place for people.

In addition to Youth Forward and the GSAs EmpowerMT has trained 70 LGBTQ youth in the past 2  years to be peer-facilitators of our anti-oppression and bullying prevention curriculum. These youth have led trainings all over the state that have helped to create safer school climates for their peers.

From this safe space LGBTQ youth leaders have been able to achieve incredible victories. Youth leaders with Youth Forward were leaders in getting Missoula to pass the first non-discrimination ordinance that included LGBTQ people in the state of Montana. GSA's that EmpowerMT help start and support in Great Falls and other communities help advocate for their school districts to adopt transgender inclusive policies. And, during this past legislative session LGBTQ youth helped defeat the so called "bath room" which would have prevented transgender people from using the bathroom or locker that matched their gender identity.

But there is a lot more that needs to be done. There is a significant need for LGBTQ inclusive mental health services for LGBTQ youth. Bullying of LGBTQ youth is very much a serious issue in our schools. And, to many of our school districts still do not have GSAs to provide that safe space for LGBTQ youth to find support and get empowered to create change in our community/

55% of youth who attempt suicide report being bullied in the past 12-months

April 17, 2017

Today we will be starting the advocacy part of our Empowering Youth Leadership Campaign. Every week day we will be posting information about issues facing youth in our community. This first week we are talking teen suicide and how EmpowerMT youth leaders are addressing this issue.

One of the most startling facts about teen suicide in Montana is that 55% of teens who attempt suicide report being bullied in the past 12-months in school (YRBS 2015). EmpowerMT hears stories from our youth everyday about the impact of bullying in their lives. One youth recently talked about what it felt like to be called "fatty" by other students at his school. I made him feel ashamed and isolated at school and that no one cared for him.

Two activities that EmpowerMT youth peer-trainers lead at schools across Montana are called Up Downs and Caucuses. With Up Downs EmpowerMT youth trainers called out different identity groups that are present at their different schools and then have those people stand up. After they stand they have all the participants cheer wildly for those students. With Caucuses students in the schools decide on a few identity groups that they are part of. Things like "jocks" or "band nerds" or "special education kids." Then these groups talk about what they would like others to know about them and how they would like to be treated. They then present this to the larger school group.

These activities help students create pride in themselves and start to break down the barriers that create isolation between groups. Over the past three years EmpowerMT peer-trainers have trained nearly 8000 educators and students across Montana with activities like these. These trainings have helped create school cultures that reduce bullying and are more inclusive to a wider diversity of students.

We publicly launched our Empowering Youth Leadership this Saturday and we have raised $3280 so far to support the leadership of our youth in leading these bullying prevention trainings. If you have donated already please share this post with your friends and family to help educate them about teen suicide and to empower youth to address this issue. If you have not donated yet please DONATE TODAY! 

Empowering Youth Campaign Launches Today at Diversity Day

April 15, 2017

We are excited to publicly launch our Empowering Youth Campaign today at our annual Diversity Day Celebration. We have already raised $3280 because of your generosity and we are just $600 away from getting a $1500 matching gift. Hopefully by the end of tonight we will be almost halfway to our goal of $12,000.

Come help us celebrate Youth Empowerment and Diversity tonight (Saturday April 15th) at the Missoula Senior Center on Higgins Ave for the 8th Annual Diversity Day!

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