March 23, 1998
By Francine Tyler
Seventy teenagers from the Watsonville area are expected to attend the third annual Teen Women's Conference, held at Stevenson College on Thursday, April 2, and Friday, April 3. Volunteers are needed to help set up before and clean up after the event and to provide support.
In its second year at Stevenson, the conference is designed to provide the teen participants with healthy ways to deal with conflict and expose them to a university environment, said Ana Maria Guevara, one of the conference organizers. The students are chosen by lottery primarily from seven schools within the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
"We try to provide participants with a safe space where they can come together and begin to talk about what it's like to be a young woman in this community," said Guevara, a UCSC alumna. "They discuss the many things that are affecting their lives both positively and negatively and what they can do to change their community."
The conference uses an interactive program with skits, role playing, question-and-answer sessions, and small-group work to teach the teenagers about a range of issues affecting them: from teenage pregnancy, to drug abuse, to racism, said Guevara. The program was planned by Watsonville-area teens and women volunteers.
"The conference allows the girls to look at all the issues of oppression and how we play it out against ourselves through teen pregnancy, eating disorders, and gang violence," Guevara said.
A number of teenagers who have attended the event in the past have made positive changes in their lives, from getting involved in more school clubs and organizations to volunteering with community social service agencies or advocating for other teenagers in a variety of settings, said Guevara.
"It's great to see them take a different shift in their lives," she added. "One youth who came to us when she was on probation is now working for a nonprofit."
To volunteer to set up before, clean up after, or chaperone for the event, call Shane Snowdon, director of the UCSC Women's Center at (408) 459-2169. Chaperones, who will provide emotional support and guidance to the participants, must be able to volunteer for one or two full days and are required to attend mandatory training on Saturday, March 28, from 10 a.m. to noon.
Organized by the Teen Women's Conference Consortium in Pajaro, the conference is cosponsored by a number of UCSC Student Affairs offices and Watsonville community organizations. At UCSC, the sponsors include the Women's Center, Stevenson College, the Office of Admissions, Educational Opportunity Programs, and the Student Affairs Division.
In the local community, sponsors include the Fund for Non-Violence, Santa Cruz Community Foundation, Pajaro Valley Unified School District, and a number of other organizations and individuals.
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