Elise Marcianti took part in the Empower U program in 2016
Since the launch of Tomorrow's Youth's first Empower U program in 2002, Brent Williams, co-founder, bestselling author and one of Australia's leading authorities on youth related issues, is not slowing down. With over 15 years experience, seeing first hand the changes in youth behaviour and the cause of their internal struggles, Williams believes upskilling, supporting and empowering our youth is more important today, than ever.
The Empower U program is designed to teach teenagers and young adults practical skills in how to communicate effectively, set and achieve their goals, take control of their lives and embody a new sense of self-worth, direction and empowerment. Since the launch of the first program, which has seen the participation of over 23,000 teenagers in six countries, Williams reflects on what seems to be a shifting landscape of youth issues.
'Comparing today's programs to 15 years ago, we still have young people coming to us with important, genuine struggles and in need of guidance and empowerment, some more than others. But the key difference we've seen over the years is centred around why they struggle."
Williams cites the rise of social media, influencers and screen addiction, as the key reasons why teenagers' wellbeing is suffering. '50% of teenagers now suffer from what has been identified as screen addiction," says Williams. 'The overuse of technology, in my mind, is a big reason why so many young people suffer with anxiety and depression. The connection to technology means we are no longer present a lot of the time," he explains.
According to a recent report, teens are now spending up to nine hours a day on social platforms, with 30% of all time spent online allocated to social media activity, and 60% of social media time facilitated by a mobile device. These types of behaviours, Williams says, can be linked directly to relationship disconnect, anxiety and depression. 'Young people need to focus on developing their interpersonal skills and be more mindful of the negative impact both social media and mobile phones have in general when not used in moderation," he remarks, 'We have never been in more need of programs like Empower U to help guide and inspire the next generation of leaders."
Empower U programs will be held across Australia within the next 6 months:
Sydney: 9 - 12 February 2018
Canberra: 23 - 26 March 2018
Byron Bay: 4 - 7 May 2018
Melbourne: 25 - 28 May 2018
For more information visit: www.tomorrowsyouth.com.au/book-seminar or www.tomorrowsyouth.com.au/empoweru
Interview with Elise Marcianti
Elise Marcianti was 16 when she took part in the Empower U program in 2016. Struggling with low self esteem and overcoming destructive behaviours, Marcianti had just been released from a psychiatric ward to treat her ongoing struggle with anorexia. Marcianti was hoping to find emotional strength and confidence to help break barriers and change her views and ultimately, aim for recovery - something she never genuinely wanted.
Now 18, and having just completed her last year of school, Mercaniti looks back at the life-saving program she is so grateful for, "After completing Empower U, I made a massive turning, where for the first time since being unwell I wanted to get better, and I felt I could. Empower U set up the foundation in which I grew and flourished. I gained so much more insight and confidence - I never saw this coming. Having such a supportive environment helped a healthy mindset compared to treatment rooms. From then on outwards I have never had an another admission, I have been clean and and fully weight restored - another thing no one saw coming. It quite literally saved my life." says Marcianti.
Question: What is the Empower U program?
Elise Marcianti: Empower U is Australia's No.1 Personal Development and Life skills program for teenagers and young adults. Over 2 1/2 days, Empower U teaches life skills that are not always focused on in schools. Some of the topics covered are Goal Setting, Communication skills, Social media etiquette, Emotional Intelligence, Money & Finance, Career Guidance and much more. The Empower U team creates the ultimate learning environment with disco lights, big movie screens and lots of games and activities that allow young people to open up and break through limiting beliefs and install a sense of self confidence and motivation.
Question: What is involved in the Empower U program schedule?
Elise Marcianti: First and foremost Empower U is designed to be fun and interactive. Given a lot of teenagers come along nervous and resistant, Brent, the head presenter, creates the ideal learning environment by teaching complex concepts in a fun and interactive way. It all starts on Friday night where Brent covers ideas like Comfort Zones, How to deal with Fear, the importance of being Present and how taking responsibility, accountability and ownership is pivotal to ensuring you are able to achieve your goals, dreams and ambitions. Integrated amongst the theory are a lot of games and activities that help make everyone feel comfortable and it forces everyone to interact with people they have only just met. It is important as it then sets up the weekend.
Saturday kicks off with a 10 minute dance session. Brent does this to get everyone right out of their comfort zones straight away and it ultimately lifts the energy and gets everyone engaged straight away. The day then is broken up into a variety of topics starting with how our beliefs are formed and how to get rid of negative beliefs that don't serve us. This is followed by a very interactive session on Emotional intelligence and Creativity where everyone is split up into teams and play theatre sports games. The final content session for the Saturday is on Goal setting. We are taught how to set clearly defined goals with a detailed plan for their achievement. That is followed by the big finale on the Saturday night where participants are taken through a board break process where they write on one side of a wooden board all of the things that are holding them back in life- it can be fears, doubts, or past negative experiences. On the other side they write the person they want to become and the qualities they want to possess. It is very emotional and confronting and when ready they then break through the board with their bear hand. It is at this point that every participant is very much fully engaged in the experience and there is a heightened sense of community.
Sunday kicks off with a dance sessions (there is one before the start of each section actually) and it is followed by a debrief of the amazing night before and then right into a very tangible section on Communication skills. This is followed by Money and Finance and then Career guidance before the wrap up on the Sunday night which has a focus on the importance of gratitude, validation and recognition. The highlight here is a process where participants have to tell their team mates what they love about them which reflects the importance of validation and recognition. Finally there are team performances and some final thoughts from Brent before a final dace Mosh and hugs before we all say goodbye.
Question: What inspired you to get involved with the program in 2016?
Elise Marcianti: I first heard about Empower U when my friend visited me when I was admitted to a psychiatric ward for my eating disorder. She gave me a brochure that explained what it was about and after hearing how much it not only changed her life but everyone who has gone through this experience made me willing to give it my all to get there. Knowing I was at rock bottom there was only one way to go- forwards.
Question: What did you learn from the Empower U Program?
Elise Marcianti: I learnt many valuable lessons from Empower U that I was able to use as a positive reference and implement strategies long term to create a loving relationship with others and myself and also thrive in life. I learnt I am worthy of recovery from anorexia and that I have the resources and references to set up a fulfilling and colourful future. What I leant in those two and a half days set me up to keep learning with my eyes wide and my arms open. I also learnt concepts that helped me detach from social media and the false reality and align my goals with what I want rather than what society deems as success.
Question: How did the program help you overcome low self-esteem?
Elise Marcianti: Throughout the whole program participants create positive references to change the old beliefs that they may not be worthy enough or good enough by creating such a loving and warm family. When people stand up and speak or get out of there comfort zones they are recognised and applauded. For me, I was able to realise the complex and amazing ability my body has which challenged the thoughts to help me nourish my body. Throughout the weekend this validation and recognition helped me realise I should be grateful for who I am and embracing that rather than criticising what I am not.
Question: What did you learn about yourself whilst participating in the Empower U Program?
Elise Marcianti: That I, Elise, am worth it. I am worthy of this life and I can invest in myself and test my boundaries. The only thing holding myself back is me, when I let go nothing can stop me.
Question: What advice do you have for young Australians who might want to get involved in the Empower U Program?
Elise Marcianti: The only regret you will have is the failure to participate! Empower U is the best and most valuable investment I have made. I too was nervous however I cannot thank Brent and the program enough for saving my life (literally) and if you join changing your life too. Don't hesitate to jump out of your comfort zone as that's where the growth occurs.
Question: What's next for you now you've finished year 12?
Elise Marcianti: In my gap year I am hoping to change my garage into an art studio and allow my creativity to flow through me as I found completing school held my imagination and creativity back. I am hoping to travel up the coast and assist or participate in as many Empower U programs as I can. In this time, I am want to set myself up for the future, invest and keep learning!
Interview by Brooke Hunter