Rockin’ all pink everything all month long and buying up all the products that support breast cancer awareness is one way to help the cause. But, if you think that’s all you can do as a teen, keep reading and let us help you find out what’s really good:
It’s called Teens 4 Pink and it’s a new program that was launched in 2014 by breast cancer survivor, Karen Eubanks Jackson and her organization, Sisters Network, Inc. (the only national African –American breast cancer survivorship association). It’s goal? To educate and empower Black teen girls about breast health and early detection.
One example of how these girls give back is by assembling what they call “compassion baskets” for breast cancer survivors. “I really enjoyed this project because I know the survivors will enjoy all the nice beauty products and supplies we included … to help them feel better and beautiful during this difficult time,” says 17-year-old Alexis Allen, a T4P ambassador and the granddaughter of T4P founder. The girls of T4P have also participated in the Sisters Network’s Stop the Silence national 5K runs/walks, which help raise money for the Breast Cancer Assistance Program that Sisters Network runs.
“Teens learn about various topics related to breast health, including how regular screenings can detect breast cancer early on and lead to better outcomes,” says Ms. Jackson. “These teens are then asked to interview their female blood relatives to encourage them to take action to address their own breast health. [Our mission is to] save lives and change the mindsets of the African-American community. Early detection and improved communication are steps in the right direction.”
It was only natural that Alexis joined the movement, and she’s excited to be able to encourage the kind of communication in other families that she’s experienced in her own. “As ambassadors, we are trained to understand the impact of breast cancer and how it impacts Black women,” she says. “We learn key facts about the important work that Sisters Network is doing to help increase awareness … and also help organize and develop community service projects that will engage other teens.”
Besides repping their cause at fundraising events, T4P ambassadors also spread their message to teens on a smaller scale through role play. “The role-playing part of our training is very helpful to teens being trained because they get a real-life idea of how the conversation will be when they are talking with their mothers, grandmothers, and loved ones,” says Alexis.
For 16-year-old Hailey Williams, who’s also the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, being an ambassador means saving lives. She’s had friends whose mothers have passed away because of breast cancer, and believes that such deaths could have been prevented. “I feel like I’m honoring my grandmother by participating in this organization,” Hailey says. “I have found the experience to be quite rewarding because I have impacted the lives of others … it has given me a sense of satisfaction to know I am encouraging others while making my family, peers, and mentors proud.”
Right now, T4P has programs in Memphis, Tenn. and Houston, Texas, but will be expanding in the future. It was important for Jackson to launch in those cities first because African-American women with breast cancer in those places face some of the highest mortality rates in the country. “Studies have suggested a variety of reasons for these long-standing disparities, including more advanced disease at the time of diagnosis and a longer time between diagnosis and the start of treatment due to lack of access,” Jackson says. But don’t worry, even if you don’t live in those areas, you can still be a part of the Teens 4 Pink movement! Check out T4P’s downloadable family tree and start a conversation with your family.
“We are the future, and it is our responsibility to get involved in causes that we believe in,” says Hailey. “Our voice can impact the world in a powerful way … Let’s use our voices to increase awareness, encourage prevention, and celebrate survivors. For me, Teens 4 Pink is more than a cause; it’s a movement that can make a difference.”
Are you a Teens 4 Pink Ambassador? Share your story in the comments below!