Meeting our Youth Educator, Lyn Staack!
What is your position at the agency?
I am a Senior Educator in the Advocacy Center’s Education Department. My focus is middle and high school youth and a majority of my time is spent presenting in middle and high school level health classes throughout Tompkins County.
How have you been able to support individuals and our broader community in your roles?
A central piece of what I do is give a “friendly face” to the Advocacy Center as an agency. I explain our services to youth, help them recognize when situations or behaviors present a risk, and encourage them to get support in those situations. I try to show that it is possible to talk about sexual and dating abuse in ways that are relevant to their lives, openly, honestly, sometimes with humor, and always also with appropriate seriousness. I hope that after being in health classes with me teens feel more confident asking questions and most importantly sharing the truths of their own lives –their experiences, feelings, thoughts, and ideas about sexual harassment and abuse, positive sexuality, and unhealthy/healthy relationships.
What would you like youth survivors in our community to know about our agency?
I want teens in Tompkins County to know that the Advocacy Center is here for them, too. That we know that sexual and dating abuse of all forms impact teens– in their families, to their friends, to them. I want them to know that we understand how difficult, upsetting, infuriating, scary, confusing–all the feels– it can be when the person hurting you is someone who also says they care about you. When other people don’t seem to care or believe you. When other people keep telling you what to do but don’t ask what you want.
I want teen or young adult survivors to know that they can call, text or email us anonymously. They can ask us hypothetical questions. That aside from situations that involve immediate physical risk or that are abuse by a primary caregiver in a minor’s life we strictly protect the confidentiality rights of every one who contacts us.
I want teens to know that they don’t need ‘parental’ permission to talk with us. If they want to meet with someone in person they don’t have to arrange transportation– our Youth Counselor/Advocates will travel to meet with them in a convenient, safe location. I want them to know that our services are free.
I want them to know we don’t have magic wands, but these three sentences are powerful: We believe you. It was not your fault. We are here for you.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are many. One, which can be easy to forget, is that thanks to the work of the Advocacy Center, other agencies like ours and courageous survivors, there is much more conversation nationally and locally about sexual abuse, sexual consent and healthy sexuality than ten years ago.
Another is that students push me to keep improving. They ask a lot of my programs–they want classes to be relevant, interactive, use videos and visuals, and include students of different sexual orientations, gender identities, races, backgrounds, and physical abilities. I have to keep learning to keep up with them!
Finally, it is rewarding to see students claim their voices and become advocates for themselves and others. Students have told someone about abuse and shared that they took that risk because I was in their health class. Students have written and read victim witness statements in court, marched or spoken at Take Back the Night, written papers, done art and engineering design projects related to domestic and sexual violence. I have been able to watch students become leaders and the creators of change both in their schools and at college, in their jobs, and in their lives.
What are some current events/projects/collaborations that you’re excited about?
I am excited about the Gaia Girls after school program Lauren Salzman and I are offering at the Ithaca Children’s Garden this spring thanks to a grant from Women Building Community and support from Rural Youth Services staff.
When Lauren was the Rural Youth Services Program Educator in Enfield, she and I co-facilitated after school programs using the Girl’s Circle® curriculum. Lauren is now at the Ithaca Children’s Garden and thanks to a Women Building Community grant we are bringing the Girl’s Circle® model outside to the Garden!
Built on the Girls Circle® Friendships Module, Gaia Girls will integrate healthy relationship topics with environmental education, metaphors and comparisons. With the chance to learn from each other, teen mentors, adult facilitators, and the Garden, we think this program will offer an incredible setting to explore topics of identity, friendships, navigating conflict, and self-care while finding comfort and connections in the natural world. To learn more about the program, contact Lauren at email@example.com.
Four for Fun:
1) If you could have any superpower, which would you choose?
I don’t want the responsibility of a true superpower. I am, however, a great cook and I make a mean chocolate chip cookie.
2) If you could meet five people, living or dead, who would you want to meet?
I would love to talk with my grandmother again. Actually now that you asked, there are many people I would to talk with again as my older self: all my grandparents, Father Bob, Rabbi Michael, friends from years ago. It might be interesting to meet some of my distant biological ancestors. If you are offering a heart-to-heart chat about life, Les Feinberg would be top of my list. Gladys Bentley, Ruth Ellis, Cherrie Moraga, Joan Nestle, Joan E Biren, Billie Jean King, Tig Notaro, Harnaam Kaur, Mack Dihle, it’s a long list lol. But truly, life introduces me to amazing people all the time.
3) If you could be a character from a book or movie, who would you be?
Crinkelroot from Jim Arnosky’s children’s books.
4) What would you name your autobiography?
hmm maybe something like, Guess What I Learned
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