April Newsletter

April Newsletter

” How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”- Anne Frank 
“Empowerer” Spotlight: 

Abby Donald!

This month our spotlight falls upon one of our senior youth leaders, Abby Donald. Abby got involved with Empower Montana when she was thirteen. She started by tagging along to trainings with her older sister Sarah. At first she would be a supportive participant in the audience. Next Abby came to Empower Montana’s Youth Leadership Camp to become an upfront leader!

For Abby the best moments with Empower Montana are during trainings when the audience is really engaged and enjoying the activities as they find ways to embrace themselves and their peers. Her goal is to always stay connected with Empower Montana and continue learning how to empower others. Luckily she will be able to attend camp again (as an upfront leader!) before heading to the University of Tennessee at Martin. Abby is a calming and powerful leader and breaks down sexist gender roles on the daily! She will be attending UTM with a scholarship to compete on the school’s precision riffle team (so cool!). We love Abby and are so glad her family is a part of ours here at Empower Montana!
Youth and Schools

We had the joy of participating in Diversity Week at Big Sky and Sentinel High Schools recently! Missoula high schools take a week each spring to promote the value of diversity and respect for all people. Each day there are presentations ranging from films from Big Sky Documentary Film Festival to a panel on living with disabilities to building resiliency in the face of trauma.

Empower Montana always has a blast coming up with creative and fun ways to foster dialogue and learning about mistreatment. This year we chose the topic of privilege. While you might think audiences of 100 high school students would be reluctant to talk about privilege, they actually really enjoyed it! First we watched a short video on why privilege makes people uncomfortable and what it really is. Next we defined different types of privileges such as able bodied privilege, U.S. citizen privilege, white privilege, adult privilege and more! Then we were all ready to play a game where each of two teams had to guess which privilege the example was describing. We had the whole crowd cheering and on the edge of their seats with this interactive and information filled game!

Check out the video from the amazing Franchesca Ramsey we used to introduce our Tic-Tac-Privilege game at Diversity Week!

Charlie Macorn, a local queer comedian, honored EmpowerMT’s queer youth programs on March 14 (Pi Day) by hosting a comedy benefit at The Roxy. The benefit was free admission and included a silent auction of a variety of pies that community members baked just for the event. The turn out was amazing and some of our youth were in attendance. Charlie put together a group of queer comedians from all over Montana, who had us rolling in laughter from beginning to end. The comedians featured were Sarah Aswell, Kev Hamm, Nick Dowdy, and Miranda Lai. 

After a night full of laughter, pies, and queerness, the grand total that Charlie had collected was $666. All of the money raised that night will be dedicated to Youth Forward and Be You Crew so that we can continue to support queer youth in Montana. We are incredibly grateful not only for Charlie’s time and energy used in putting this event together but also for their passion for the betterment of LGBTQ+ youth in our beautiful community. Thank you, Charlie! EmpowerMT is lucky to have you in our corner.

Businesses and Organizations
One of EmpowerMT’s favorite partnerships is with the Mansfield Center’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. We have been honored to welcome Fellows to EmpowerMT from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand since 2012! The opportunity to learn from each other, build lasting friendships, and foster cross-cultural collaboration is a gift that keeps on giving. Heidi recently traveled to Myanmar and Thailand to work alongside Naw Pah Eh, Pan Nu Zaw, and Kath Khangpiboon.

One of Heidi’s highlights was leading EmpowerMT’s Building An Inclusive Work and Service Environment training for the American Embassy’s Gender Equality and LGBT Work group in Yangon, Myanmar. The goals of the training were to empower leadership at all levels to build a positive workplace where colleagues and clients from diverse backgrounds, life experiences and cultures feel valued and respected. Participants shared the cultural lenses that influence them in their work and explored the cycle of oppression and its impact on LGBT individuals that included skills and new approaches for interrupting the cycle of oppression.  Participants discussed successes and best practices for creating an inclusive work environment as well as opportunities for growth within the Embassy. “Thank you again for joining us yesterday and making a challenging topic both enjoyable and interesting. We enjoyed hearing about your experiences that brought you to this work, and everyone came away with thoughtful observations—and some ideas!—about ways to engage inclusivity at our mission.  In fact, everyone came away with a different favorite part of the session.”

To read more about Heidi’s time abroad, read her blogposts linked below!

Upcoming Events
Diversity Day 2018!

We can’t believe Diversity Day is THIS SATURDAY! This year we will be showcasing community action projects from our youth at EPIC after school club as well as a reading of writings (journal entries, poetry, etc.) from our younger selves. The event will take place at the Missoula Art Museum from 6-8pm!

Monthly Elder’s Luncheon
Missoulian Indian Urban Health Center will be starting a monthly lunch series to enjoy a meal and learn/talk about community resources. The first meeting will take place on April 26th from 11:30-1pm. For more information, see theattached flyer.

GRIT Sustainable Energy Workshops
This May 10th-20th The GRIT (Girls Representing in Trades) program is excited to announce another trade workshop open to high school girls in and around Missoula! GRIT has teamed up with the fabulous folks at MUD (Missoula Urban Demonstration) Project to create a workshop that focuses on sustainable energy! During the workshop, girls will learn about the growth of renewable energy sector, career options in sustainability and engineering and also design, construct and install a water catchment system for MUD! Contact Margaret at (406) 543-6691 or (207) 522-4638 or email mhoyt@ywcaofmissoula.org if you have any questions whatsoever!
Indigenous Film Festival
Missoulian Indian Urban Health Center will be hosting a film festival on May 18th-19th at the Missoula Children’s Theater. “This film festival highlights positive messages about identity and connection to culture and seeks to honor the resilience, perseverance, and transcendence that defines what it means to be an AI in 2018 from a foundation of historical and compounding intergenerational trauma. Our festival bears the name En-th-a-eye “Place of the Little Bull Trout” (Salish word for Missoula) Indigenous Film Festival to include the vast diversity of Indigenous experience yet have likewise tie the event to this specific area, this valley, and to honor the people who’s land on which we now live. We will offer a multitude of stories that speak to inter-connection, a sense of cultural validation, and hope.” (Click here for the Facebook event)
News of Interest

What the Arlee Warriors Were Playing For

Starting at noon on Feb. 23, the town of Arlee, Mont., evacuated. Most of its 600-odd residents drove 70 miles south through Missoula and then into the Bitterroot Valley, a river corridor full of subdivisions, trailers, exclusive private communities and ammunition stores. The crowd filtered into the gymnasium at Hamilton High School, wearing red shirts and pins bearing the faces of the Arlee Warriors basketball team, who that evening would be playing the Manhattan Christian Eagles. (Continue reading here)

Shared Food Opens Way to Explore Islam

The exotic smells of coriander and turmeric extended far beyond the doors of the First Presbyterian Church community room.

Inside, 150 Missoulians heaped plates of allo gobi, Baghdad kibbeh and good will to start off “Celebrate Islam Week.” The hope was that, like the aromas of shared food, a sense of tolerance and understanding might spread.

“These personal connections are critical,” said Imam Jamal Rahman of Seattle. “We can coexist with differences. People are starting to realize you simply have to honor and celebrate diversity.” (Continue reading here)

No One Wants to Listen to the Sex Workers

Advocates left and right have applauded federal authorities’ seizure of classified ads website Backpage.com as a victory for women in the sex trade. But who’s angriest about the shutdown? Women in the sex trade.

The Backpage debate has crystallized the broader conversation around sex work, and it has also brought out an ugly strain of false feminism. Card-carrying progressives from Capitol Hill to Hollywood have leaped to denounce Backpage just as they’ve leaped before to denounce the prospect of legalizing prostitution. But it seems these avatars of female empowerment have failed to do the one thing that would actually empower the women they claim to defend: pay attention to what those women think. (Continue reading here)

MCPS: Mental health resources crucial for students, but difficulties persist

Gun violence in schools has focused attention here and around the country on students’ access to mental health resources.

In the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012 and in Parkland, Florida, in February, investigators found repeated red flags and missed opportunities for intervention. Both shooters had displayed worrying behaviors noticed by school staff, family members, peers and health workers.

After Sandy Hook, the Missoula County Public Schools assembled a mental health task force that recommended ways it could improve its mental health and intervention services to students. (Continue reading here)

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