If you’ve checked out my profile, you’ve probably seen that I’m a part of an organization on campus called WYSE! I first heard about it at the Involvement Fair my freshman year, and I was instantly drawn to the awesomely dedicated group of girls running the booth. I was pretty involved with community service in high school: I worked at the soup kitchen my freshman year, and volunteered at the hospital for the last couple years. But most of that involved very individual work, and I never got any sense of community among the volunteers. And I didn’t really know what I was looking to be a part of in college, but I figured I would give WYSE a shot.
WYSE stands for “Women and Youth Supporting Each other,” and there’s something about this name that really struck me. It wasn’t “Women Helping Youth” (that would be kind of a sad acronym anyway), and it wasn’t “Women Teaching All Valuable Life Skills You Could Ever Possibly Need”. It was about support, and support on BOTH ends. WYSE is a group of female USC students who visit local middle schools and mentor underprivileged 8th grade girls. As many of us can relate, 8th grade was a little bit frightening, and the prospect of going off to a huge scary high school in just a year was definitely daunting. Each member of the club is assigned a school site for the whole year, and I was assigned to John Adams Middle School, which is a few blocks away from USC.
The first few sessions that we go to the schools, we play fun little icebreakers and get to know the girls. Many of them are a bit hesitant at first, but once they see how much fun we have, they keep coming back. After they become more comfortable hanging out with us, we each get assigned a mentee, and we act like a big sister to them. My mentee was the perfect little sister for me: she loved science, was a little tomboyish, hated drama and was just beginning to break out of her shy stage. I really got to see her grow during the two semesters I spent with her, and I still keep in contact with her to check up on her high school life.
After we are assigned a mentee, each member of WYSE will have a session that will be focused around a topic. In the fall, we typically go over Nutrition, Body Image, Personality Traits and some other topics that are a little more simple. These aren’t lectures at all! For the sexism session, for example, we wrote out some popular song lyrics, and changed them so they we’re more women empowering! And then we had to rap them out… I was pretty unsuccessful with that. In the spring, we get into the heavier stuff like Sexual Health, Eating Disorders, Domestic Violence, etc. However, we still try to make everything memorable, even if it is a heavy topic. We even had a condom race, a fun relay race to put a condom on a banana the fastest!
One of the great things about WYSE is that there is a community within the club members, and that really gets extended to the girls that we work with. Many of them are not friends with each other when WYSE first starts, but by the end of it, you can really see the connections that are forged.
Okay I know this is a long blog, so I’m going to break it up a bit… I’ll talk more about our fundraising, my beautiful mentee, and some special events in the next blog!
To be continued….