Endofound.org: Today we're here with Stephanie to talk about her volunteer experience, teaching high schoolers about endometriosis. In your words, what is the EFA's ENPOWR Project?
Stephanie: Well the ENPOWR Project in my words, I guess is an opportunity to teach high school students about endometriosis. Exactly what the disease is, how it can impact a person suffering and also, how it can impact a family that's dealing with a loved one who is going through endometriosis.
Endofound.org: And how did you first get involved with the project?
Stephanie: Honestly, I was just ... Since I have endometriosis, I was looking for support groups or anything that I could find in the city that was related to endometriosis, stumbled upon it online and sent in my information, and the rest is history. And I've been volunteering ever since.
Endofound.org: What it's like to teach the interactive lesson plan in high schools?
Stephanie: Okay. When you first go into high school, you kind of don't know what it's gonna be like. Teenagers are kind of different sometimes. Sometimes they are excited about you being there, sometimes not so much. But I think it's a really interesting time with them, because they are getting to learn about something that they don't always get to do in their curriculum. Often times, we'll come in and present the ENPOWR Project after they've learned about the reproductive system. So, it's kind of timely.
A lot of them will have questions about what's going on. We have two different types of lessons. The first lesson is an interactive lesson, which is a guided reading. It basically walks through the journey of a thirteen-year-old girl. I believe her name is Lauren, and it's her whole journey of finding out that she has endometriosis. It's from the time she gets her period, to finding out or having bad cramps, and then not knowing how to talk to her mother about it, setting up the doctor's appointment, what types of questions she needs to ask the doctor.
Because this is something that's happening to a high school student who's involved in sports, I think they mention that she's on the basketball team, or she's preparing for school dances or something like that. It makes it very relevant, because these students are going through those same types of events. They are trying out for sports, they are going to their homecoming dances, all these things that are happening. It makes them very interested in the story because it's very real.
For the students, a lot of the girls will ask questions, but what's, I guess, really surprising is a lot of the guys will be very interested in what's going on as well. Sometimes they'll ask questions during the lesson, or other times they'll wait until after the lesson and say, "Hey, this might be what's wrong with my sister," or it's just very interesting to kind of have everyone engaged.
We also do a second type of lesson, which is kind of jeopardy themed. They have the question on the board, and they pick out the amount. You know jeopardy has five, 400, 300, 200, 100, and they'll pick, and they'll get to ask a question. They get in groups and work together. But it's basically the same information just implemented in another way. I feel like it's a little bit more advanced. But the kids are really into it and I think it pairs nicely with like I said, they have just done the reproductive system, and they've experienced all of that lesson and in their health class or in their science class. It just pairs nicely with what they're learning, and it's kind of in an interesting way, not that so much reading from the textbook.
Endofound.org: How do kids react to the end of the lesson? Does anything surprise you about how they end the discussion?
Stephanie: I think sometimes it's very surprising. Even though these kids are like a lot of them thirteen, fourteen, it's very interesting I guess in some regards, what they already know, just because they are starting to learn about stuff a lot earlier.
One thing that I really love is when we'll have some kids in class who maybe aren't paying attention. They might be dozing off or whatever. Not the majority, just a few. But when one of the students' chimes in and then says, "You need to listen to this, this is important. This could happen to you or this could happen to someone you love." And then they'll explain what you've just taught them in a lesson. It's like one of those proud moments like, they are listening, they are paying attention to what this is.
I guess it's just more surprising that ... I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but it's when the students come to you after class and they say, "I think this is what's wrong with me, can you help me?" And I just feel like thinking back to when I was that age, how I felt like I was the only one. This Empower Project gives them the opportunity to connect with other people who are going through this, to connect with that information. It's such an important piece, I think, of a curriculum or just any information that you should get growing up. I think that that's something that's really important.
Endofound.org: You just covered this a little bit, but what do you like about teaching?
Stephanie: Well I've always loved kids. Teenagers, little kids, babies, I love them all. And so, being able to go into the classroom and hang out with them and make it fun. They have to be in school every day. They are learning, it's the same old thing every day, but this is something that's different. It's different and it's relevant.
I enjoy being able to kind of walk around, talk to the different groups when they're working in their groups about the lesson, and they will come to me after and ask me different questions. I would say probably 75% of the time it's about EFA or the ENPOWR Project, but sometimes it's just they just wanna connect with somebody who is just in their class.
I think it's a fun and rewarding experience at the same time. Just to have them come up to you and tell you that they're gonna pass this along. This information that they learned, they think it can help someone else. It's that feeling of, "Wow, I think I helped someone today." And knowing that they're gonna take that information and help someone else. There's just nothing greater than that feeling.
Endofound.org: What motivates you to keep teaching lessons? Is it that feeling or anything else?
Stephanie: I would say that feeling, but then I have my own selfish reasons as well. I feel like for me, dealing with endometriosis and having dealt with it for so many years, I feel like I finally have a way to get revenge on the disease. When I'm having a really bad day, yesterday is a rough one to get through. But then I automatically email or call the EFA and say, "Hey, how can I help, when is the next opportunity for an ENPOWR Project, I wanna volunteer."
I feel like that's how I get back at the disease. You're not gonna keep me down. I may have suffered for a day or two or whatever, but I'm gonna be back in the classroom and I'm gonna be spreading the knowledge, and making sure that these kids don't have to go through what I had to go through.
Endofound.org: Great. Thank you for being with us, Stephanie. To learn more about our ENPOWR program or become a volunteer, click here.