K-5 mentor Audrey shares advice for the young women in our program
Our professional mentors are leaders and change-makers in our community. In honor of Women’s History Month, K-5 mentor Audrey shared some of her own story as a mixed Indigenous woman, mental health advocate, and friend.
Career-wise, how did you get to where you are today? What have been some of the building blocks along your career path?
As a young Indigenous woman, I have always been very aware of how many Indigenous youth suffer with severe mental health problems. When I thought about how many of my young Indigenous friends have expressed significant disturbances in their life due to mood or anxiety issues, I realized I couldn’t name any that didn’t suffer from these problems. Myself included. It broke my heart. This led me to study Psychology so I could learn more on how to help others find their path to help themselves heal. I knew I wanted to work specifically with youth because this is where we see the heart of most issues arise and it’s the best time for people to learn how to use the tools that will help them to heal themselves. To help provide those tools and provide a safe space for youth to share their true feelings, good and bad, is my primary career goal. It is also what I prioritize in my work here at Friends of the Children.
Some obstacles on this path have been the limitations my own mental health issues create for me. But my mental health issues are often similar to the kids I work with, and I believe in showing them how to heal by example. I tell them what I do to cope with my own anxieties and I express my emotions openly so they know they are not alone in their struggle. So it is an obstacle, but it also allows me to connect with my girls in ways I could not if I didn’t struggle with mental health all these years.
What advice could you give to our young women, from K-5, and as they graduate and go into the world?
Take care of yourself first and foremost. Always. As women, we’re constantly being asked to take care of others or expected to put in more work than men to get where we are today. It’s exhausting and requires way more work, especially if you’re a BIPOC woman. So you make sure that you’re setting your boundaries and only doing what you’re willing to do. Take time for yourself and dedicate your energy to what you want to do. It seems simple, but we’re often not taught to live that way. People will try to guilt you for it and make you feel you’re not worth your own care, but you absolutely are. The people who get upset when you set boundaries are the people who benefitted the most from you not having any.
Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
It’s important to me because it makes the world pay attention to how fundamental women are to our societies. We should be paying attention every day, but it often gets lost. When we dedicate time to highlighting the history and current efforts of brilliant women across the world, we are uplifting women everywhere.
Tell us about a woman you look up to.
There are so many to choose from. One that I would like to highlight is my best friend who passed away a few years ago. She was kind, brilliant, and never afraid to tell you how much you meant to her. But at the same time she was fierce and wouldn’t hesitate to put you in your place if you stepped out of line. She was always unapologetically herself and I deeply admire everything about her. She is a powerful soul and a woman I will always look up to for guidance.
Women supporting Women – Is there a business/woman/etc. you'd like to give a shoutout/kudos to?