by Cyrus Webb for Conversations Magazine
If there was an individual who understood the tough times that today's teens are dealing with it is Dr. Jeanelle Marshawn Lanham. The Marion, Indiana native has had to contend with her own feelings of insecurities as well as those heaped upon her by those around her. It was only with time and the belief in herself and her ability to make a difference that she was able to keep those naysayers from destroying her dreams altogether.
Today she is using her resources and her own personal journey to help young people, and young boys in particular, to realize their own potential and give them the motivation they need to keep going when others tell them they should just give up. Now living in North Glendale, AZ, Dr. Lanham is living proof that hard work does pay off and she wants to show others how they can live their lives with "S.W.A.G."
Here is our conversation.
Jeanelle, thank you for taking out the time to speak with us. You have committed your life to working in bringing out the best in young people. We'll talk about your current projects in a moment. Why don't we begin, though, by talking about your own evolution in life. When you were growing up what were some of the challenges you faced and had to deal with?
Growing up for me, was very interesting because although I had good times physically I was traumatized mentally. I was bullied my whole life by family, friends, enemies which eventually grew into my own thoughts. They didn't hit me to hurt me but they did use their words to make me feel horrible but they would say it was "ok" because they were "just playing"!
When I was 7 years old a cousin of mine told me that "everything bad that happens around me was my fault" because I told her this guy was going to fall off his skies, and he did. At the time I believed her and struggled with it for all of my early years. My family teased me for being the skinniest by saying that I was adopted and my mom would say my kisses taste like dead birds. Friends would say I was ugly, boyfriends would compare me to other girls. I felt so bad i wanted everyone to like me and it seemed like no one ever did. I had dreams of success and my friends (even NOW) always tell me I dream too big and that I'll "never" be "that"! It was all mental abuse I had no idea how to combat until my mid 20's when I started attending WCCI then World Changers Church in Atlanta Ga, Pastor Creflo Dollar. He taught me How to Trouble My Troubles and I knew I needed to share it with teenagers; they Should Not Have to WAIT until they were adults to learn that important information. It's my duty to share this knowledge with them and I know how to in a way that rocks their world & SWAG appears!
Some have a hard time coping with adverse situations. Was it difficult for you to come to terms with the hand you were dealt in life?
It was at first because I felt it unfair that people treated me so mean when all I ever tried to do was try to please others and make them feel good about themselves. One day I had an epiphany and decided i didnt like feeling this way and I wasnt going to use my past as an excuse not to succeed, so i started renewing my mind!
What motivated you to move on and forward in spite of your difficulties?
The dreams that kept coming up in my head. I would always day dream and see myself more than what I was at the time and more than what others said I would become.
Jeanelle, it's one thing to find a way to cope with your own woes in life. It's a totally different thing to want to help others as well. When did you realize that what you had been through put you in a unique position to be of assistance to others?
I realized i was in a uniques position to assist others when I heard others speak of the same feelings they had as a teenager that I felt and needed a solution, a solution I have. I really realized I had an opportunity and "talent" to help Teen when I had kids and saw Them go through the common Teen Challenges. I now had the chance to use Programs I had created to have proof to be an affective way to get positive results! Once I saw the transformation in my boys I knew that I had to share my Programs with every teen and parent i meet.
You said to me in a conversation recently that having sons have influenced your decision to want to work with boys. Can you share why with our readers?
Did you know 4 out of 5 boys 13 - 19 says "When their mom compliments them they feel more confident in what they do"! When a Mother tells her son(s) how special they are and that they have worth their behaviors improve and treat others, especially the opposite sex, with respect. And after having my boys I realized it was true. I also found it a challenge finding things for them, whether it was buying clothing, finding places specifically for boys to hang out, to finding anyone that gave them sympathy or empathy when in trouble; it was nothing like the opportunities and options available for girls. When my youngest son had challenges at school (because he had ADHD) it was handled differently because he's a boy; most teachers, especially, looked at boys as a nuisance and was less likely to encourage them but would rather yell, confess something negative over them and then shun them. I noticed that when ever a boy made a mistake that mistake would exemplified compared to if the mistake be made by a girl. Human nature, unfortunately, sees boys as destructive, emotionless, and even heartless at times and that's not the case they have feelings too! I knew boys needed an advocate; they deserve to get the same positive attention, events, mentoring as girls do and it became my passion i realized that when I or another female complemented boys they felt much more confident than when a male complimented them and I decided to use that for their good!
What are some of the projects you already have in place to help and encourage young people?
I have a Teen Book Ive written "Teens Learn to Trouble Your Troubles" available on my website, Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. The book gives teens tool to overcome bullying, depression, avoid teen pregnancy, respect authority and more. I started a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Teen Cafe - "Hodge Podge the Teen Cafe™" currently online soon to be in a physical building. Our website offers group counseling and one on one. We have Q&A on Twitter every week to stay interactive. We help teens overcome the challenges they face that are "real" to them. This is our "S.W.A.G Camp™" - this is a program that will be available next summer. Its a 8 week Teen Program created to show teenagers the special qualities/talents within them ultimately encouraging them to walk with S.W.A.G (Strength Wisdom Assurance Greatness). We are starting a Teen Radio Station giving our teens a chance to express themselves musically as I know the importance of the Arts. Our unique activities cater to each gender as well as interest because we know that each needs the same encouragement, just in different ways.
Jeanelle you have made yourself available to do public speaking, not just for the youth but adults as well. Was that an easy decision for you to make, and what's been the response to some of the things you have shared?
It was easy because I understand that it was important to encourage the parents too. They also need assistance raising teenagers because it's not the easiest but it can be less stressful. In the end I want successful families that will continue to pass down to their kids what they've learned from myself and our Programs. My goal is to help everyone involved in the lives of teenagers! The response has been great, sometimes my honesty can leave a little sting but once it's gone their minds are changed and renewed and they appreciate it.
You know as well as I do that the internet has been a major factor in the lives of young people today. How are you using it and social networking sites to reach your target audience?
Yes the Internet has been a major factor in the lives of our teenagers like the computer was to our generation. Unfortunately, the Internet has been tainted and gotten a bad reputation due to cyber bullies and inappropriate material on the Internet but it has its good side too. Since I know teens text, surf the net are active on such sites as Twitter & FaceBook I use these and my Blogs to make being online a positive experience. I post uplifting quotes, I even answer questions to some who live in other countries, I give solutions instead of answers. BUT MOST OF ALL IM VERY REAL AND HONEST TO TEENS. I use the Internet as a tool to let teens and parents know they are not alone.
The summer is upon us, and it is during this time that our young people will definitely be tested. Many may feel as though they are going through situations alone. What would you say to them, and what can all of us do to help the younger generations in our own community.
Yes the Summer, a time parents worry most about keeping teens busy entertained and out of trouble. Until I am able to open a Hodge Podge in every state I suggest they come to my sites to find helpful tips on what to envolve their teens in. Ask local churches or schools to have camps longer than a week; give them more to do, things they like to do. Involve them in the planning process; their minds because their brains are growing, and it needs to be exercised like a muscle in order to grow to great capacities. if we occupy their minds with positive things they wont think and eventually do the negative things.
Thank you for all you are doing, Jeanelle. Continued success to you. How can our readers find out more information about you and your services?
Thank you for having me. And for your readers, they can contact me at www.TheSWAGDoc.com or www.HdgPdg.com or 480.389.3894 for inquiries about Speaking Engagements, Counseling (group or individual) and our Teen Programs.