The Woman Bottled Up in Me

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The Woman Bottled Up in Me

Poem from YOUR L!FE: Young Voices from The Write of Your Life™, Anthology (to be released Winter 2014) by The Write of Your Life™ Student

She is confident.
She isn’t afraid to stand tall and take eyes away from her feet.
She isn’t afraid of falling, so she doesn’t.
She’s like a flower blooming so strong and beautiful.
But she’s so deep down and out of reach I fear I won’t find her.
My desire to be this person is so great.
But my habit of wondering what everyone is thinking of me is in my way.
If I let that go then maybe I can stand tall too.

News Release: Women Wonder Writers Awarded California Arts Council “JUMP StArts”

Jurupa Unified Student Court program in session with student jurors hearing case,
WWW Executive Director Debra Máres, and respondent, his mother and translator.


News Release

Women Wonder Writers Awarded 

California Arts Council “JUMP StArts” Grant

State funds support arts education projects for youth 

involved in the juvenile justice system  

RIVERSIDE, CA – Today the California Arts Council announced a grant award of $27,664 to Women Wonder Writers (WWW) as part of its JUMP StArts program.  JUMP StArts supports high-quality arts education and artists-in-residence programs for youth engaged in the juvenile justice system. These may be students who have been arrested, are on probation, or are incarcerated at a juvenile justice facility. Projects must be designed and developed in partnership between an arts organization and a juvenile justice facility or social service organization. The program mobilizes partnerships between arts organizations and juvenile justice entities to create arts-learning opportunities that foster positive socio-emotional, behavioral, academic, and developmental outcomes for system-engaged youth.

With support from the California Arts Council, Women Wonder Writers will support the Jurupa Unified School District (JUSD) Student Court with its proven literary and cultural arts programs. Together they are committed to ensure that art is accessible to young and vulnerable Inland Empire students, specifically those who are at risk of being engaged in the juvenile justice system.
WWW’s Executive Director Debra Máres stated, “By the time youth come to the attention of law enforcement or the justice system, they’ve faced an average of six traumatic experiences. This funding from the California Arts Council will help our team support Jurupa Valley Unified Student Court with The Write of Your L!fe, which gives some of our most vulnerable students a creative outlet and helps address the school-to-prison pipeline, the cascade of effects that occur when children are pushed out of school and into the juvenile justice system.”

Women Wonder Writers is one of 51 grantees chosen for the JUMP StArts program. The award was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council, with grant funds totaling a projected $24,508,541 for 2018-19, the highest investment in statewide arts programming since the 2000-01 fiscal year.

“Arts and culture are inextricably linked to our humanity,” said Nashormeh Lindo, California Arts Council Chair. “They serve as a universal touchpoint for understanding and addressing our societal issues-dismantling inequity, healing trauma, reframing justice, inspiring truth and shaping futures. The Council is humbled to support the vital work of Women Wonder Writers and its passionate efforts to make a better California for us all.”

Women Wonder Writers (WWW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which implements cultural arts and restorative justice mentoring programs for youth. WWW is dedicated to supporting juvenile justice and education systems with creative alternatives to suspension, expulsion and incarceration.  By giving youth a new perspective and the proper tools and framework to succeed, WWW believes that no matter one’s past, resilience is possible. Visit WomenWonderWriters.com for more information.
The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California’s diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.
Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Vice Chair Larry Baza, Juan Devis, Jodie Evans, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Donn K. Harris, and Louise McGuinness. Learn more at www.arts.ca.gov.
 

UC Students Join Forces to Halt the Sexual Assault at Local Spoken Word Event Set at Riverside Artswalk

IMG_9929UCLA Jazz Vocalist Emily Silva performing at Google LA during Her Stories in April 

RIVERSIDE – University of California at Riverside (UCR) and Los Angeles (UCLA) students have joined forces to team up with local Riverside nonprofits to shine light on and combat abuse to our young women and women at Halt the Assault, a spoken word event set at Riverside Public Library at Artswalk this Thursday, April 4, 2019.  This event, hosted by Women Wonder Writers in partnership with Riverside Area Rape Crisis CenterInlandia InstituteDaughters Lives Matter and Street Positive during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, will be kicked off with a lyrical performance by a UCLA female jazz vocalist and feature local male spoken word artists, emcee’d by local media host Wallace J. Allen IV, the publisher of Westside Story Newspaper and Host of Empire Talks Back Radio.

During an otherwise busy time of school year, amidst final exams and spring break, UC students have put school on pause to focus on Thursday’s event. UCR students, who have been in the planning stages since January, are spreading word around campus about the event and launched an art and poetry contest; winners will be announced at the event.  The support stretches 60 miles west to UCLA.  Emily Silva, a first-year Jazz Vocalist at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music will kick off the event with a lyrical performance. Emily who has been singing for the past fifteen years recalls her favorite musical memories to include singing at both the 84th Annual Academy Awards and Aerosmith’s ESPN E:60 Tribute To The Boston Bombing with The Southern California Children’s Chorus. Last year, Emily was recognized as finalist in the OC Varsity Artist of the Year competition as commercial vocalist.

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Emily Silva, UCLA Jazz Vocalist, set to perform at Halt the Assault

Ms. Silva stated, “it is extremely important to build safe communities to combat sexual abuse against women. As a young woman, I believe that the effects of sexual assault are destructive in that it affects our ability to believe we are worthy of greatness. We have the responsibility as strong women to rise above these events into victory; wonderful organizations such as Hault the Assault help bring about a safe space that is essential in combating the violence of sexual assault, and I am thrilled to be here as an extension of their healing hand.”  Ms. Silva selected to perform Rise by Katy Perry because the message of the song is about the resilience in rising above adversity into victory.

“The momentum of any great art and social change movement comes when individuals like these students and the community come together and bring their artistic talent to send a strong message,” said UCLA alumni Debra Máres, Founder of Women Wonder Writers. The students are asking the community and local leaders to do the same by showing up on Thursday, during Riverside Artswalk.

In addition to Ms. Silva and the winners of the Halt the Assault poetry contest, spoken word artists set to perform during the 1 ½ hour show include Yaw Kyeremateng, who was named the 2018 Outstanding Coach of the Year at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament.  Yaw, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana in 2007 to attend college and once had to speak with a pen between his teeth to improve his articulation states, “The more passionate you are and the more fun you have, the better you will do,” when it comes to public speaking.

Coach Sean Smith is also set to perform as a spoken word artist at Halt the Assault. Smith is highly passionate about creating, facilitating and being both a leader and an active participant around the conversation of sexual assault and trauma.  Smith spent nine years in probation and public education and the last 13 years as a life coach, mostly for women still haunted by trauma well into their adult years.  His relationship with his own mother was impacted by her trauma, which was the focus of his recent one-man-play, “I Do, Mom.” For Smith, “It’s not only about raising awareness, but it’s about what needs to be done to heal both the women who are the victims of the violence as well as the men who are abusing, so we can finally stop the cycle.”

Inlandia is a nonprofit literary agency recognizing, supporting and expanding literary activity in all of its forms in the Inland Empire by publishing books and sponsoring programs that deepen people’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of this unique, complex and creatively vibrant region.

Riverside Area Rape Crisis Center, founded in 1973, is a nonprofit organization which has been a visible presence and resource for the victims of sexual assault and their families during a particularly traumatic time in their lives.  Over the years, the Center’s service areas, program staff, and volunteer base have expanded to better meet the needs of the communities served throughout Western Riverside County.

Daughters Lives Matter is a social movement across the nation advocating the importance of building “healthy” father/daughter relationships in order to provide for girls’ and women’s education attainment, victimization prevention and poverty avoidance.

Founded in 2011 by three women working in the criminal justice system, Women Wonder Writers (WWW), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, builds resiliency in youth, schools and communities through its cultural arts events and programs, including The Write of Your L!fe, a proven curriculum to help girls ages 14-17 safely express, overcome and grow.

Halt the Assault will take place on Thursday, April 4, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. during Inlandia’s Literature on the Lawn Event in front of the Riverside Public Library located at 3581 Mission Inn Avenue, Riverside, California 92501. Attendance is free and open to the public. Winners of an art and poetry contest around the topic of sexual assault prevention will be announced at the event. Submissions are being accepted through March 25, 2019 online. Pledges ($10 each) can be made to help the event reach its 1,000 Ribbon at the Mic Campaign by visiting its online campaign page, which will benefit programs for children impacted by sexual assault, including WWW’s The Write of Your L!fe, a social-emotional literary arts curriculum. For more information, to become a sponsor, or participate as a spoken word poet, contact Terry Boykins at (909) 838-9117 or Terry@WomenWonderWriters.com or visit: WomenWonderWriters.com.

Wallace J. Allen IV, publisher of Westside Story Newspaper,
set as Halt the Assault Emcee

Coach Sean Smith, set to perform at Halt the Assault

Yaw Kyeremateng, Concordia Irvine’s Director of Forensics,
Halt the Assault Spoken Word Artist

Press Release: Women Wonder Writers Partners with Community Foundation in Give BIG San Bernardino’s 24 Hour On-Line Fundraiser


Press Release
Women Wonder Writers Partners with Community Foundation 
in Give BIG San Bernardino’s 24 Hour On-Line Fundraiser

San Bernardino, Calif. – Give Big San Bernardino County is on October 30, 2018. For those unfamiliar, it’s a 24 hour on-line fundraising web-a-thon with hundreds of nonprofits throughout our County participating.  This is the fifth year that Give Big SB County has been held, helping raise over $1.3 million during that time.  The event is hosted by The Community Foundation and is supported by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

Nonprofits in our county are greatly challenged to provide for the needs of the disadvantaged.  There are many difficult issues our people face such as extended economic crisis, unemployment, high housingcosts, natural disasters and social instability.  There are over 36,000 homeless students. One in four children live in poverty.  Every day thousands of people look to a nonprofit for assistance.

Give Big SB County is not just about raising funds, it is also about raising awareness.  Nonprofits are making a difference in people’s lives and this work needs support.  With over 5,000 nonprofits in our county, imagine our society if they did not exist?

The fundraising web-a-thon is the day before Halloween, a day where we could make a choice to support a worthy cause that would be good for all of us.  Imagine being able to help all those in need? This would be a better place for all our us to live.

Women Wonder Writers invites you to support us, or a nonprofit of your choice, on Friday, October 30, 2018.  You can visit our Give BIG page for more information or to schedule your donation early.  Donation of all sizes are welcome!

Social & Emotional Learning is Necessary to Rescue Youth From the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Building youth resiliency relies on making sure they have two things: 1) the “development of strong and trusting relationships with key adults in their lives, particularly in schools;” and 2) “the formation of positive attitudes towards fairness and justice.” (Advancement Project & C.R. Project, Harv. Univ., Opportunities Suspended: The Devastating Consequences of Zero Tolerance & School Prison Discipline 15 (2000)). Our approach at The Write of Your L!fe™ stresses the importance of promoting self-esteem and efficacy in our youth, as well as healthy relationships within and outside of schools. Additionally, our approach helps youth find their voice and express empathy, two critical skills in fairness and justice.

We are committed to helping youth build resilience and believe social-emotional learning (SEL) is a critical component in rescuing youth from the school-to-prison pipeline and preparing them to face adversities. SEL is particularly important for the youth we serve because they are among our most vulnerable, including being incarcerated, homeless, foster youth, kids of color, special needs, or low-income. They experience a greater likelihood of falling behind in school and are at greater risk for being impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline, “the cascade of effects that occur when children are pushed out of schools and into the juvenile justice system. This pipeline exacerbates existing racial and economic disparities in the education and justice systems.” (In School + On Track 2015 California Attorney General’s Report on California’s Elementary School Truancy & Absenteeism Crisis).

How does SEL manifest in our programs? This is one example. A youth is invited into our 12-week program facilitated by a caring, positive, consistent mentor-instructor and joins our group-mentoring experience discussing historical women who have overcome adversity, social injustices, relationships and learning to advocate for not only themselves but for others, such as those who have been exposed to trauma. The mentor-instructor facilitates restorative justice modeled talking-circles and listens to the youth as they share stories, ask questions and express a range of emotions. Our guest-poets visit the workshop to work alongside the mentor-instructor and facilitate poetry readings and writing sessions. By the conclusion of the program, each youth has published their own writing in a group anthology. The teacher-mentor helps the youth critically think about ways to use their skills, consider alternatives to past choices, visualize their future and ways to avoid risky behavior, break unhealthy cycles, such as in drug and alcohol abuse and violence, and consider different perspectives about family, school and community dynamics.

We approach SEL focusing on the types of values, mission, social advocacy, and skills that are important to the youth, which help them break cycles of victimization and abuse. Youth feel inspired, hopeful, supported, empathetic, worthy, expressive and empowered to make a change in the world. They are more confident and critically think about social issues in the world, prepared to address conflict, and ready to share their ideas and asks questions. The youth learn to express, grow and overcome in a peer-supported environment. Our current logic-model design allows The Write of Your L!fe,™ to measure the impact of SEL and shows it does indeed play a critical role in building youth resilience.

Not only do SEL skills convert to higher levels of self-esteem, hope, perseverance, self-worth, leadership, social responsibility and self-regulation, but educating youth with SEL also improves school attendance and academic performance. Additionally, cultural-arts based education has been shown to have a tremendous effect on student motivation and achievement, as well as brain development. Building creative skills can also lead to greater resilience and independence.

At The Write of Your L!fe,™ we are committed to SEL access to youth and collaboration with their micro and exo-systems including peers, family, community, education, legal and social welfare systems, and thus help reduce poverty. SEL plays an important role in our society in the achievement of peace and prosperity for everyone.

This SEL approach to building resiliency provides youth a foundation to build healthy relationships within and outside school as well as themselves. Helping youth succeed and rescuing them from the school-to-prison pipeline is our most proud accomplishment.

Blog contributor Debra Máres is a Latina writer, teacher and speaker.  Growing up with addiction and violence trauma, she followed her dreams and encourages youth to do the same.  An attorney and founder of a successful nonprofit, her TEDx Talk has inspired countless lives and her trauma-informed, social-emotional curriculum instills confidence in youth through journaling, cultural arts and restorative justice.  Learn more at DebraMares.com and WomenWonderWriters.com.

Women Wonder Writers Founder Addresses Local Leaders on Juvenile Justice Reform

TEMECULA—Women Wonder Writers’ Founder Debra Mares delivered a message of resilience, emphasizing the two primary development goals of The Write of Your L!fe, “the development of strong and trusting relationships with group mentors” and “the formation of positive attitudes towards fairness and justice,” to local nonprofit and education leaders at the Lunch & Learn on Friday, August 24, 2018 in Temecula. The luncheon, catered by La Cocina Grill and sponsored by Collaborative Learning Solutions, began with a restorative circle facilitated by Dr. Debbie Sacks, an Educational Consultant at Collaborative Learning Solutions.

According to WWW Founder & Creator of The Write of Your L!fe Debra Máres, “just seven miles from the luncheon, there are girls sitting in a classroom inside juvenile hall. Research tells us before becoming locked up, these girls on average have been exposed to six traumatic experiences, including being exposed to domestic violence, sexual or physical abuse, trafficking, incarcerated parents, drug abuse, and mental health hurdles.”  Ms. Mares, who also works as a county prosecutor, encouraged the attendees to become part of The Write of Your L!fe movement, which gives all girls access, especially those incarcerated, to mentors and a sense of justice.

At the luncheon, guests participated in a giveaway of key components of The Write of Your L!fe.  Deputy District Attorney Evelyn Essengwanger, a Gang Awareness Mentoring Empowerment leader and founder of a girls literacy and empowerment program in juvenile hall won a restorative justice consultation from Collaborative Learning Solutions and stated, “I think I’m going to use it in juvenile hall.” Jorge De Leon, a Community Coordinator Presenter with Riverside Area Rape Crisis (RARC), won a guest-writing and poetry anthology package. He stated it would give his “My Strength” and “Be Strong” students the opportunity to publish their own anthology. The remaining luncheon attendees won items from Women Wonder Writers’ Growth Kit, which is distributed to girls faced with trauma emphasizing their value, worth, resilience and beauty.

Women Wonder Writers’ next Lunch & Learn is set for Wednesday, September 27, 2018 in the High Desert.  Sponsors and venue are being sought for the next event in the Apple Valley and Hesperia Areas.  For information on sponsorships or venue, call Terry (909) 838-9117 or Terry@WomenWonderWriters.com.

Women Wonder Writers™ (WWW) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to break the cycle of abuse and victimization through education, empathy and expression.  WWW helps build resiliency in girls, families, schools and communities through its cultural arts events and programs, including The Write of Your L!fe,™ a proven, trauma-informed, resiliency-building curriculum designed to help girls express, overcome and grow. In 2011, WWW was founded by 3 female professionals working in the criminal justice system (2 prosecutors and a paralegal) and has grown from a single-site program to a collaborative network of partners around Southern California.

L-R Debbie Sacks, Collaborative Learning Solutions; Deputy DA Evelyn Essengwanger; WWW Founder Debra Mares

L-R: Dr. Debbie Sacks (Collaborative Learning Solutions); Deputy District Attorney Evelyn Essenwanger; WWW Founder Debra Mares

Restorative Circle 8.24.18 Lunch and Learn

Lunch and Learn attendees in Restorative Circle lead by Dr. Debbie Sacks, Collaborative Learning Solutions

Lunch and Learn Guests 8.24.18

Guests at Lunch and Learn, Aug. 24, 2018 at La Cocina Grill, Temecula, CA.

Women Wonder Writers Joins California’s Forgotten Children to Host Child Sex-Trafficking Awareness Film & Panel Discussion at United State of Women Summit


Press Release

Los Angeles- Women Wonder Writers  (WWW), a girls mentoring nonprofit grown out of the Inland Empire by women in the criminal justice system, has partnered with The United State of Women Summit and California’s Forgotten Children to moderate a discussion panel following a screening of a documentary film shining light on and combatting child sex-trafficking. The screening and panel discussion is set to take place this Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles from 2:30-4:00 p.m. in the Rose Hills Auditorium.

About Film & Panel Discussion

California’s Forgotten Children is a feature award-winning documentary about child sex-trafficking, recounting true stories of girls and boys who were commercially sexually exploited in California and are now survivors and courageous leaders fighting for the rights of victims worldwide. The film is a call to action, leaving viewers with knowledge and tools to combat child sex-trafficking.  This Los Angeles screening follows screenings at the Newport Beach Film Festival and Riverside International Film Festival last month, where Women Wonder Writers moderated the film discussion also.

Following the film screening of California’s Forgotten Children, a panel discussion will take place moderated by Debra Máres, a veteran prosecutor, Co-Founder of Women Wonder Writers and Co-Creator of The Write of Your L!fe, a proven, trauma-informed and resiliency-building curriculum for teen girls. Ms. Màres is also the author of The Mamacita Murders, a legal thriller tackling domestic violence and child sex-trafficking.

Discussion panelists include Rachel Thomas, the Co-Founder of Sowers Education Group promoting survivor empowerment, Kay Buck, the Executive Director of Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST), Nola Brantley, CEO of Nola Brantley Speaks!, a survivor consultancy empowering women and girls, Amber Davies, the Director of Clinical Programs at Saving Innocence and Melody Miller, the film director of California’s Forgotten Children.

WWW Co-Founder Executive Director Debra Máres stated, “We’re thrilled to team up with Director Melody Miller, California’s Forgotten Children Movement, The United State of Women Summit and our Panelists.  WWW’s focus is building resiliency in girls and this film speaks to us as so many of our students are foster youth, impacted by trauma or incarcerated, factors which make them among our most vulnerable.  It’s important to stand united as champions for children within their micro and macro systems, including media, government, health, family, community, and education, so these children will be protected, not forgotten.”

About United State of Women Summit

The 2018 United State of Women Summit is a two-day gathering in Los Angeles, which featured at the opening ceremonies today Special Guests including Former First Lady Michelle Obama, California Senator Kamala Harris, Actor and Activist Jane Fonda, Farmworker, Laborer and Children’s Activist Dolores Huerta, Founder of the #MeToo Movement Tarana Burke and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Today Saturday, May 5th, women, girls and allies were hosted at The Shrine Auditorium, inspired by mainstage sessions followed by issue-breakouts, opportunities to connect with leading fellow changemakers, and an interactive center with organizations and women-owned businesses.

On Sunday, May 6th, attendees will fan out across Los Angeles to attend skills-based trainings and community teach-in’s hosted by a range of organizations focused on gender equity in Los Angeles. More information about The United State of Women Summit and tickets can be found at Eventbrite.

The first Summit of its kind took place in 2016 in Washington D.C. with Special Guest Past President Barack Obama and addressed topics including economic empowerment, equal pay for equal work, women’s health, women’s education, violence against women, entrepreneurship and civic engagement.

About Attending the Film Screening

The film screening of California’s Forgotten Children followed by a panel discussion is set to take place Sunday, May 6, 2018 at Mount St. Mary’s College located at 10 Chester Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90007 in Los Angeles from 2:30-4:00 p.m.  The event is FREE and open to the public and media.  Seats can be reserved by visiting EVENTBRITE.

L-R Rachel Thomas, Kay Buck, Nola Brantley, Amber Davies, Melody Miller, Panelists for Panel Discussion set May 6, 2018 following California’s Forgotten Children Film Screening at The United State of Women.
WWW Cofounding Executive Director Debra Mares, Panel Moderator.
California’s Forgotten Children Promotional card featuring Julianne Collins, Activist, Martial Arts Blackbelt and Actress, playing young Carissa Phelps.
L-R Debra Mares (WWW Exec. Director & Panel Moderator), Melody Miller (California’s Forgotten Children Director) and Genice Jacobs (Associate Producer) taken at Riverside International Film Festival Gala April 21, 2018.

Film Director Melody Miller on stage of Fox Theater for Film Screening at Riverside International Film Festival April 17, 2018.

Panelists on stage of Fox Theater for Discussion following Film Screening at Riverside International Film Festival April 17, 2018. Panelists included Melody Miller, California’s Forgotten Children Film Director; Niki Barnes, Junior League of Riverside State Public Affairs Committee; Debbie Martis, Rebirth Homes; Norma Vasquez, Operation SafeHouse; Pastor Daniel Bishop, The Grove Community Church; Krista Langford, Inspire Life Skills; Opal Singleton, Million Kids; Terry Boykins, CEO Street Positive and WWW Marketing Director; Allison Donahoe-Beggs, Riverside Department of Public Social Services; Genice Jacobs, Abolitionist Mom, Julianne Collins, Activist, Martial Arts Blackbelt and Actress, playing young Carissa Phelps.