Thursday, May 22, 2014

Adapting the Virtue Value Project (Personal Progress) for Special Needs

After reviewing (adapted) Personal Progress Value Experience with a young woman in our ward, she asked me how many more projects she needs to do to complete the program. I explained that there are ___ experiences left, and also eight 10-hour projects. 

I told her that one of the projects she can start right now is reading the Book of Mormon. I suggested that she start with that now, since it may take quite a while. She seemed excited about that, but wondered how she could keep track of what she's read, especially since she reads scriptures on her father's Kindle. She asked if there was some sort of chart that she could get to help her remember.

I have seen many charts that help you track scripture reading, so I set out to find one for her today. Most of them available online show the entire Book of Mormon on one chart, but I thought that might be confusing or overwhelming for her.

Then I came across these charts that track scripture reading one book at a time (and it looks like some of the longer books of the Book of Mormon are broken up into several different pages).  I've included some examples below- Click on one of the pictures to go to the source site. They are free to use.

I plan to include one of these at a time in her Personal Progress notebook (as explained in my post "Adapting Personal Progress for Special Needs") and replace with the next new chart as needed

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Wait- you don't have a plaque for your YW? Why you need one, and how to get started

A few years ago, one of the Young Men leaders in our ward mentioned that they were going to order a set of 2 perpetual plaques to display in the foyer of our ward building. One would be for Duty to God and the other would be for Eagle Scouts. We loved the idea and went ahead with ordering a plaque for the Young Women also- a plaque recognizing those who complete the Personal Progress program (i.e., earn the Young Women Recognition Award).

Of course I've seen plenty of other wards with these sort of plaques- some with multiple plaques dating back to the 90's (or maybe even earlier!). Many wards also have plaques for other things (such as a list of those who have served full-time missions) and may also display plaques for those currently away on missions.

For some reason, we didn't have any plaques in our foyer at all. It had been a while since anyone had earned their Eagle Scout or completed Personal Progress, so I'm not sure if order plaques were taken down at some point because they were so outdated or if we never had plaques in the first place. Or maybe we had plaques they stayed with the other half of our ward when the ward split, many years ago?

Regardless of the reason for our lack of plaques in the recent past, we wanted a plaque for the YW for the same reason that the YM leaders wanted the plaques for the make completing these goals a prominently recognized and celebrated event. It gives the other youth something to look forward to and work for. They see it on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. It reminds them of what they can accomplish and gives them good examples to follow.

How do you keep the lettering/look uniform? 

We ordered all 3 plaques for our ward from the same company. I think that its important to have a clean look, so having matching plaques (or at least coordinating them as closely as possible, if you already have some plaques on display). There are a wide variety of styles available, but a consistent look is generally more professional. Check with your Bishop to see where you can place your plaques (I've seen them in foyers and other hallway areas).

Here are just a few examples of styles that are available (from various companies). If you click on the photo it will take you to the site that sells that particular plaque. Many sites who sell Eagle Scout plaques and missionary plaques also sell these Young Womanhood Recognition award plaques. You can also ask around or do your own online search to find a particular style or price-range you are looking for. I just did a quick Google search to find the examples below:

In addition to having a plaque that coordinates with other plaques that are on display, you'll want to keep the lettering consistent as well. It would look a little strange to have the YW plaque with names in a blocky all-caps text next to an Eagle Scout plaque with cursive text. Even worse would be to have multiple text styles/sizes used for names on the very same plaque. 

Some styles of plaques require you to order separate name plates that are later ordered and engraved as-needed, then sent to you to attach to the plaque. We ordered a plaque with all of the blank name plates already attached. Instead of trying to remove the name plates when we need to add names, I just take the whole plaque with me to an engraving shop.

I use the same local shop for engraving every time, to try to get a consistent look. They've kept a record on file of the text type/size they use for the plaque so that they can duplicate it easily when a new name is added. Some adjustment has to be made for very  short or long names, but in general they look pretty uniform. Having a name and year engraved onto a name plate costs about $6 in my area.

In case I'm released (or the YM Presidency needs to add a name to one of their plaques), I've taped a business card of the engravers shop on the back of each plaque, along with a little note with instructions (what name the text information is filed under, etc).

Why no mention of "Personal Progress"?
Although the program is called Personal Progress, the actual name of the award is the Young Womanhood Recognition Award. Thats what the certificate they receive says. You'll notice that all of the examples of plaques above use the phrase "Young Womanhood Recognition Award" instead of "Personal Progress". Its just more fancy-sounding, I guess!

What about YW leaders - do their names belong on the plaque?
I've seen some wards include the names of YW leaders on their plaques that recognize completing Personal Progress. While I would never want to diminish the accomplishment of anyone who completes the program, I opted not to include adult YW leaders on our plaque. When we received the plaque, my daughter was almost finished with Personal Progress and I was very close to completing the program as well. Believe me, I would have loved to put my own name on there, too (I know very well how much work it is to finish!) but I felt like it might take away from honoring the YW (especially my daughter) in some way. I felt like it was something special just for them, and that putting myself on there so close to my daughter might feel like self-promoting and could distract from her accomplishment in some small way. That was my personal choice, but there isn't anything necessarily wrong with honoring YW leaders in this way. Like I said, I've seen lots of wards do it.

How far back do you go with the names?
To be honest, there has been a little grumbling about who's name was (or more specifically who's name wasn't) put on our new plaque. Since nobody could remember when (or if) we'd ever had a plaque for the Young Womanhood Recognition (or anything else!), I knew that there were undoubtably at least a few girls who had completed the program in past years who never had their name on a plaque. We don't have a large number of youth in our ward, so we're not talking about a lot of girls... I only know of a few people who finished the program sometime between 2006-2011. The last girl in our ward to have completed the program graduated the year before we ordered the plaque and had long ago moved out of the ward. I felt like it would be best to start with girls currently in the YW program.

However, if we'd had someone who had finished the program the same year we ordered the plaque, I would have considered that (especially if they were still in our ward). One person complained that their daughter's name should have been listed, because she had completed Personal Progress. The daughter they were referring to was another example of a YW who had completed program years ago and is now a married adult (and no longer in our ward).

My purpose was not to exclude people, but I did have to be realistic. It would be impossible for me to accurately track down everyone who had ever been a YW in our ward in the past 20 years to ask if they completed Personal Progress and try to verify the date of completion. To be fair, if I were going to list any previous recipients, I would have to list them all. An impossible task. So, "current YW only" it is!

Is a plaque really THAT big of a deal?
Whether you have a plaque or not, please make a big deal out of Personal Progress. It IS a big deal. I have many posts about how to get your YW excited and interested in Personal Progress, so please check them out (see the Personal Progress category at the top of the page). Since we ordered out plaque, we've had 5 Young Women and 2 YW Leaders complete the Personal Progress program. Thats an average of 3-4 people completing the program a year. That is an astounding number compared to what has been done in the previous years! A plaque by itself won't make a big difference, but an overall effort and emphasis on Personal Progress definitely does!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

7 ways to help graduating Laurels (and why they need your help!)

Its Spring, and that may mean that you have some soon-to-be-graduating Laurels in your ward! How can we help them transition into their next role as adults?

And wait a minute- when exactly do they leave YW, anyhow? When they turn 18? When they graduate? The fall after graduation?

According to the Church handbook of instructions, these are the guidelines that we need to be aware of :

"A young woman normally advances into Relief Society on her 18th birthday or in the coming year. By age 19, each young woman should be fully participating in Relief Society. Because of individual circumstances, such as personal testimony, maturity, school graduation, desire to continue with peers, and college attendance, a young woman may advance into Relief Society earlier than her 18th birthday or remain in Young Women longer. Each young woman counsels with her parents and the bishop to decide what will best help her remain an active participant in the Church" 10.1.5

Regardless of when they actually leave YW, too many girls fall away from the church during that awkward time between leaving the Young Women program and entering Relief Society. They may be intimidated, feel out of place with the adults, or be bored out their mind with a more adult style of lesson - and any of those reasons can be excuse enough to stop attending church... ANYTHING we can do to help them make this transition successfully is vitally important!

If you have Laurels graduating from high school this spring, here are 7 suggestions to help you make that transition go a little smoother:

1.  Work with your Relief Society Presidency to make transitioning to Relief Society easier. In your ward/branch, your Relief Society may even have a Sister (probably a member of the Presidency) assigned to help young women make their transition. Even if they don't have a specific person assigned to this task, it is important to meet with the Relief Society President in your ward/branch and establish ways that you can work together in a sort of easing away as Young Women leader, they (and visiting teachers, etc) moving in as the new support system. This will be most successful (and it will be much less likely for the young woman to fall through the cracks) if you work with the Relief Society as a team. "Young Women and Relief Society leaders work together to make the transition into Relief Society successful for each young woman" 10.1.5

2. Attend Relief Society class with the graduating Laurel(s). One idea that we've had is to have our (senior) Laurels attend Relief Society Sunday class on a regular basis (say, quarterly - or even monthly). The frequency of these visits to the Relief Society class could increase as their senior year progresses. You could start out with quarterly visits and eventually move up to every other month, then once every month. I recommend checking with your RS Presidency to see which week of the month they'd recommend. Our RS President recommended that we have Laurels attend the 4th Sunday lessons because she felt they would be most relatable to the YW.

A YW leader (such as the YW President or a Laurel class Advisor) could attend class with the Laurel(s) without causing much of a disruptance with the regular teaching schedule if you plan well. For example, if a member of the YW Presidency teaches the first Sunday lesson every month, you could plan to have the YW Advisor attend Relief Society with the Laurel(s) once a month on first Sundays. Having a YW leader/Advisor attend class with them is meant to help them feel more comfortable, but if their mother is attending RS class or they are otherwise comfortable and reasonably mature, you might be able to wean off attending with them after a while. Please check with your Bishopric first to make sure that this will be appropriate. 

3. Attend Enrichment activities with the graduating Laurel(s). With the permission of the RS Presidency, Laurels may start to attend the occasional Enrichment night activity. Your Enrichment Leader and/or the Relief Society Presidency should be able to suggest which activities would be most appropriate for the Laurels to attend. Attending casual activities is very helpful in socializing the YW with the adult sisters.

4. Recognize the Laurels (and all of the YW, really) for their accomplishments. I am a frequent facebook-er and I use it as a medium to point out the achievements of our YW (church-related or not) to our fellow ward members. Susie finished Personal Progress! Jane made the soccer team! Joanie won a scholarship! Ingrid got into BYU-Hawaii! Woo-hoo!!!! Personally, I am horrible with guessing ages, and all teenagers look the same age to me! Its difficult for the entire ward family to keep track of who is old enough to graduate and what all they are doing, so its nice to remind them that we've got some YW who will be moving up to RS soon - otherwise, they might not realize! 

5. MORE Recognition! In the same vein, having visible recognition of their maturity and accomplishments is also helpful (for example, we have a plaque in the foyer with the names of girls who complete Personal Progress/receive their Young Womanhood Recognition). In our ward, the Bishop presents the Young Womanhood Recognition award in Sacrament meeting. Even if that isn't done in your ward (some wards don't do that anymore), you can still make a huge deal about their church-related accomplishments in YW Class, at Mutual, and at special events like YWIE. Some wards even do special nights for YW who complete Personal Progress (similar in importance/hype to a Court of Honor for Eagle Scouts)

6. Give the graduating Laurels the opportunity to serve. Do you have a Laurel class presidency? I thought that was a standard thing for every class to have its own presidency, but I've been surprised to hear of many wards who don't have class presidencies at all, or who have a single presidency for the entire group of girls. I understand that adaptations like this can be made for special circumstances (like small branches or wards with very  few youth), but if you can swing it, try to have a Laurel class Presidency! This will be their last chances to lead under the mentoring of their YW Presidency. We do not have a large ward and we don't have a huge number of YW. When I was first called to serve in YW, there was only a single presidency made up of girls from the Laurel class. These few girls did and planned everything for the other classes. We have since called separate class presidencies and each class presidency plans their own activities, works with their own less-active/inactive girls, and takes turns conducting on Sundays. We don't always have enough active/interested girls to make up a full class presidency, and thats ok. In my opinion, its better to be missing a Counselor or a Secretary in a class presidency than to not have one. We currently have a Laurel Class Presidency of one - a President only, but that is a major opportunity for me to work with this YW and gives her a chance to lead and be responsible for something. She knows that she is being counted on. And that is a good thing.

7. Get excited about Graduation! Go to her Graduation, make cupcakes, and attend her Open House! Announce graduations in YW class opening exercises. Helping them to celebrate can help them realize that its a good thing because and they really will be moving on to bigger & better!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thursday, May 8, 2014



Kellie (from the Jolly Rogers Young Women Blog Facebook Group) has supplied this week's question for Random Question Thursday: 

"I'd like to know how dress standards are addressed for mutual? We have told our girls to "strive for efy standards", but I know other wards that prohibit shorts all together..."

Thanks for the question Kellie-

Truthfully, the girls in our particular ward generally come to Mutual wearing FTSOY-appropriate clothing, so this hasn't been a problem for me (yet). However, that definately doesn't mean that they dress modestly all the time. We have actually had more of an issue with it at church on Sundays.    So, I've sort of combined both things together, since the basic issue is the same...

When girls come to church on Sunday with less appropriate dresses/outfits, I sometimes get "the look" or comments from other ward members, such as, "You're the YW President, why are you LETTING her wear that?" Well, yes, I am the YW President, but the YW didn't exactly call me to ask what she should wear that morning!

It is my responsibility to make sure that each YW knows the standards, but I can't make them wear what they should. I'm hesitant to even address an issue like that right on the spot because they are #1- at church with their parent(s), and #2- their parent(s) probably bought them the inappropriate clothes (or at least know they are wearing them). Its a tough situation, because we are supposed to support the parents, not override them. But on the other hand, if the parents aren't enforcing the standards, it puts us in an awkward position because we are responsible for making sure that the girls know the standards and encouraging them to live those standards.

I mean, I WANT to run screeching over there like a madwoman and cover them up with shawl or something, but ya- its touchy...

I also have to consider that girls may not have the same standards at home - especially if it is a less-active or part-member family. For example, if you have one parent who is a member and one who is not (or is inactive), they may have to compromise on clothing standards as part of their family dynamic. But really- even some very active families do not always require (or enforce) the standards in their home. They may see no problem with a shorter skirt or a tank-top style dress. FTSOY gives some guidelines, but is not exactly specific in some areas. For example, short skirts are discouraged, but there is no definition of what constitutes a "short" skirt. To me, above the knee is short. To others, mid-thigh is considered perfectly fine. Our Stake dance-card standards are more specific about these sort of things, so I refer to that when girls have specific questions about clothing appropriateness.

If we started having girls show up for Mutual wearing inappropriate clothes, I would probably speak to the Bishop (or the Bishopric Counselor over the youth) to see how they want me to proceed. I say that because it is a touchy subject and what is appropriate as a next step may vary depending on the girls and their family situations. Does he want you to send all girls home if they are dressed inappropriately, no matter what? Are there exceptions because of level of understanding? Does the girl not own appropriate clothing to wear? Does he want to speak to the specific girl(s) and/or her parents? Meeting with a Bishopric member would probably be my next step, because its really a tough situation...and I would anticipate some backlash from parents if there will be consequences (like sending girls home), so you will want to make sure that everyone knows the expectation ahead of time and that you have that support from the Bishopric.

We require a certain standard of dress for stake youth dances (and other activities like EFY), and while that concept gets its share of complaints from the youth, it is understood and generally accepted. We don't turn people away from church because they are wearing jeans instead of a dress or a sweatshirt instead of a dress shirt/tie, but at the same time, active members are generally expected to show a certain level of understanding and respect for the Sabbath. Its not that dressing more casually for something like a Stake dance would make you evil, but dressing at a higher standard shows a higher level of respect and care. You wouldn't wear sweatpants to prom, or a bathing suit to a dinner at the White House. Sweatpants and bathing suits aren't "bad", but some situations and activities require a higher standard.

If I ask the (active member) girls to come to Young Women in Excellence on a Wednesday night in "Sunday clothes" and one of them shows up in basketball shorts & a t-shirt, I don't send her home, of course. But when clothes are inappropriate when it comes to modesty and a young women who does/should know what the standards are, I think thats a different ball-game.

My thought is that Mutual is usually considered more like the dress expectations church - come as you are, but we prefer such and such (please). If we have a non-member or less-active girl come to Mutual in short-shorts, I wouldn't want her to feel unwelcome, but I would want to find a way to talk to her (or the group as a whole) at some point (probably if she continues to attend after the first time) about the standards you expect in a kind and informational way.

As a side-note, I joined the church when I was 18. I had the missionary discussions about the law of chastity and all that, but they (and the Gospel Essentials manual) never specifically explained about what exactly was appropriate (or not) when it came to clothing standards. I thought that not showing cleavage was dressing modestly. Nobody ever told me that there were other specific clothing standards and why. As a result, I regularly wore very short mini-skirts to the singles branch I attended for several years (and taught the Gospel Essentials class) until the youth standards were mentioned one Sunday in a R.S. lesson. At the time, I was preparing for a mission. When I found out about my own lack of modesty (although it was unintentional) I was very shocked and embarrassed. Why didn't anybody ever tell me? Maybe everyone assumed I knew and just didn't care? Maybe they were too embarrassed to confront me? I certainly wish somebody would have spoken up sooner!

This seems like it will have to be handled on a case-by-case basis, unless your Bishop feels its best to have a general rule for everyone (you will be sent home from mutual if you are not wearing clothes that fit such and such standards). It would be nice to have the clothing standards (and really ALL standards) be a required observance at Mutual activities, since we are trying to teach and encourage those things.

In general, I make sure that all of the YW and their parents are at least AWARE of what the clothing standards are. We use FTSOY as a guide (you mentioned EFY standards, but most youth in our Stake do not go to EFY and wouldn't even know what they were! Using EFY standards might work better in many areas. We also have used dance-card standards for certain events (which in our area means boys wear collared shirts, no shorts, etc), but of course if we expect dance-card standards for an event, we have to explain what that means every time because some kids don't have dance-cards. And dance-card standards are not all about modesty. For example, boys are asked to wear collared-shirts at our stake dances to make it more "nice casual", but a regular t-shirt worn any other night of the month is not immodest. So, some of the dance-card standards are modesty-based and some are "dress a little nicer than normal"-based.

We make sure that every parent has a copy of FTSOY and have even recently used it to review the standards (with the Bishopric) for an all-adult 5th Sunday 3rd-hour lesson. Honestly, this has not changed much, but at least I'm not wondering "do her parents not realize that _________ is against the FTSOY standards?"

Usually what I do when we have issues with clothing at church on Sunday is not address it while they are currently wearing the questionable clothing (since it is not usually an every week thing here). Of course, we've never had a YW show up in anything really extreme like a bikini, so I recognize that there may be exceptions where speaking to someone on the spot might be appropriate.

Generally, I will wait and talk about the clothing standards with the entire group (such as the next Sunday during YW class). I try to work it into the lesson so that it doesn't seem like I am singling someone out (though they will be fully aware of their own clothing habits and may feel singled out anyhow). I focus on getting them to understand WHY we should dress a certain way, not just what the rules are. Standards will just be pointless, stuffy, & restrictive laws to them if they don't understand the reasons why.

I try focus on self-respect, considering what image we want to portray about ourselves, respecting Heavenly Father, etc instead of the classic "you're making it hard for the boys to be righteous by dressing that way". I've heard some young men complain that they feel uncomfortable with being portrayed as being cavemen who can't control themselves, so I try to avoid that. Besides, some of the girls will only hear "if I dress that way, boys will be mesmerized by me". And really, is the point of dressing modestly to keep the boys righteous? No, it is not. It is about respecting ourselves and the standards that the Lord has set. That is why FTSOY specifies that boys and girls should dress modestly - although there are some situations where boys may not dress modestly, this happens to be more of an issue for the girls in our society.

I once explained why dressing in a revealing or outlandish way is distracting during the sacrament by using Christina Aguilara as an example. This was in the middle of one of her seasons on the Voice and she was in a phase of wearing a lot of bust-popping-out shirts at the time (she seems to vacillate between the extremes of short-shorts and 'look at 90% of my chest' shirts and being somewhat conservative/businesslike). I use Christina Aguilera as an example of clothing only. I've included a collage of some of her outfits here from the tv singing competition "The Voice" here-

I found many pictures of Christina where (to me) she looked well, trashy. I know she's an entertainer and she's going for a certain look, but it is not the kind of look that makes me respect her or think of her as a businesswoman and mother. The larger photo is (to me) the one where she looks the best!

You won't get the full effect of her cleavage-showing outfits in the collage above, because I've covered her up with banners for my blog, but they weren't just slightly lower necklines- these were straight-up everything-hanging-out necklines!

Please don't attack me because you like Christina Aguilara as a singer, person, whatever. This isn't about her or her singing, this is about how she dresses. I realize that she is in entertainment and dresses to shock sometimes, but that is precisely why I chose her as an example when I was trying to talk to the Young Women about how they dress at church. They all knew who she is, and are familiar with how she presents herself.

This wasn't discussed during a "modesty" or "chastity" lesson. This whole scenario actually came up during an "Honoring the Priesthood" lesson. We were discussing ways we could honor and show respect for the priesthood. One girl mentioned that dressing appropriately (i.e., modestly) for Sacrament meeting would help keep the boys from being distracted while passing the Sacrament.

I asked the girls if they knew who Christina Aguilera is. They all did. I asked them to picture one of her usual outfits in their mind. Then I asked them to imagine if she had come to Sacrament meeting that morning and sat in the congregation wearing that outfit. Would they have stared? Would they have been distracted by it? They all agreed that they would be.

My point was, that attention is not necessarily positive attention and the way we portray ourselves does have an impact on others- but maybe not in the way we want.

I explained that wearing something immodest or extreme (even if it is technically covering your body in a modest way - like my clown costume) is a distraction to others. You can imagine how difficult it would be to keep the Sacrament reverent in that situation, or for any of the priesthood holders to concentrate on what they were doing.

I told them that I would definitely be distracted by that scenario - NOT because I was attracted to Christina Aguilera, but because I would be surprised by her inappropriate attire and uncomfortable about it. It would make it hard for me to concentrate and yes, I probably would stare (or spend a lot of time trying not to stare). But NOT because I am attracted to her...

I asked them if they thought the men and the boys would be able to concentrate on their Sacrament duties if Christina Aguilera were there and wearing one of those very low-cut outfits. They said they thought it would be difficult. I asked if it would be just as difficult for everyone to concentrate if I had come to Sacrament meeting dressed as a clown. They all laughed, and said that it would be.

I explained that getting stared at by boys because your are wearing something distracting does not mean that you are getting positive attention. Even if a boy staring at you is attracted to you, is that the kind of attention you really want? Or do you want to be respected and admired for your personality, intelligence, spirituality, integrity, kindness, charity, etc?

As I mentioned before, there are going to be girls who believe that some attention is better than no attention. Or that if they can attract boys with immodest (or bizarre) clothing, they will then start to notice their other attributes. Again, I try to focus on self-respect, treating your body as a temple, and desiring a temple marriage to a righteous priesthood holder.

While being admired and found attractive by boys is important to most girls, if they really thought about it (and could choose only one) would they rather have boys like them for what body parts they are willing to show, or for their personality and other qualities?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Personal Progress Peer Mentoring - Using Visiting Teaching As A Model!

Normally, Personal Progress mentoring is done by a YW who has completed the Personal Progress program and is mentoring as part of earning their honor bee charm. For more information about earning the honor bee charm, see the "What do I do when I complete Personal Progress?" section of the Personal Progress site on found HERE

With so many YW in our area struggling with Personal Progress, we wanted to develop a mentoring system to help the incoming Beehive girls start strong and stay active in the program. Many of our YW in the Mia Maid and Laurel classes just aren't interested in Personal Progress. Try as we might with incentives and charts and awards, it isn't making much of a difference. We encourage girls to complete Personal Progress by age 16 (and the boys to complete their Eagle by age 16) because after that, it becomes more difficult because they are driving, dating, working and/or preparing to leave for college/missions. If they don't start before 16, it is very difficult to complete the program. By that time, much of the interest just isn't there for some of these girls. We feel like if we can develop interest in the program early on (when the girls are still enthusiastic Beehives), we will have better success with girls starting & completing the entire program in the future.

However, since all of the older girls in the ward who had completed the program had since moved away, we only had one remaining girl (a Beehive) in the ward who had earned her award/medallion. We weren't sure how to have a Beehive mentor other (same-age) Beehives. And who would mentor Mia Maids and Laurels who were struggling (or not participating at all)? A Beehive? We were concerned partly because of the age difference (and/or lack of age difference) and partly because there was only one girl who could be responsible for mentoring everyone in the program who needed support.

We could have taken on the mentoring roles as a Presidency, but I felt strongly that we were overlooking a leadership opportunity for the YW in our ward.

With this in mind, we decided to adapt the peer-mentoring concept to better fit our situation. We selected several Beehive girls who we felt would benefit the most from peer mentoring. We didn't have a pre-decided number of girls, but selected some girls who were Beehives who had not done anything in Personal Progress but seemed willing/interested. We also included all Beehives who had not yet had a Personal Progress training meeting*. I did not include anyone who is just not interested in Personal Progress or who refuses to participate in Personal Progress. Although those girls could certainly benefit from mentoring, I didn't feel like that trying to coerce a YW into participating would be the best use of our limited peer-mentoring resources. Especially in these initial stages.

With three girls selected for potential mentoring, we moved on to the next stage in our planning - who would do the mentoring? Again, according to the handbook, this is something that is recommended as a project for girls who have already completed the Personal Progress program. I don't think that means that other girls (still in the middle of Personal Progress themselves) can't serve as mentors. In any case, we have a large Beehive class (and more coming in this year), but not enough honor-bee-seeking girls to do it. In our situation, we decided to select several girls who are actively participating in Personal Progress and seem to have a good understanding of how the program works. We were also looking for girls who were mature enough (regardless of age) to take the responsibility and follow through with it.

We ended up selecting 3 girls as peer-mentors. They all happened to be Beehives at the time, but 2 of them have since moved up to the Mia Maid class. I want to reemphasize that we were looking for mature and self-starting girls, not necessarily girls of a certain age. Other important qualities would be responsibility, understanding of the program, patience, and kindness. The girls that we chose all happened to be serving in class presidencies at the time. This was not part of our decision, but their responsibility level in their calling (if they have one) might be something to consider.

We prayerfully matched up the 3 mentor girls with a mentee, but were careful to match each mentor with a younger mentee (even if that age difference is only a matter of months). I feel like some girls would feel weird about being "helped" by a younger girl.

We currently have:

  • a 14 1/2 year old mentoring a 13 1/2 year old
  • a 14 year old mentoring a 12 year old
  • a 13 year old mentoring a 12 year old

Using the Relief Society visiting teaching program as a model, we set up a system of reporting and following up. The mentor is responsible for checking in with her "mentee" on at least a once a month basis (more often is preferable), seeing if she needs help or has questions, and encouraging her to work on Personal Progress. They can work together and help however they want (as long as they follow the guidelines in the Personal Progress book), but there isn't a specific assignment that they need to accomplish (such as getting them to complete a certain number of Value Experiences each month). The mentoring is meant to be a support and a reminder for the mentee to do Personal Progress (in her own time).

They are not assigned in pairs (as visiting teachers are) and they are not required to visit the home of the mentee. They are encouraged to meet with/talk to their mentee in whatever way works best (call them at home, speak to them after YW class, come a little early for Mutual to meet & go over their progress, etc).

Three members of our YW Presidency (myself, 1st Counselor, and Secretary) have each been assigned one mentor to supervise. At the end of the month, the supervisor checks in with the mentor to get a "report" of what had been done. The supervisors may also remind the mentors to check in with their menthes (mid-month) and see if they need any help with their mentoring. The supervisors report the progress of the mentors/mentees back at YW Presidency meetings. We have a new Presidency member, so when another Beehive comes in, she will become a supervisor in the program as well.

We have not announced this program to the entire YW group, because we didn't want anyone to feel slighted (for not being selected as a mentor or not being mentored) or to have anyone who has been struggling feel as if they are a "project". With new Beehives, we are now inviting the assigned mentor to attend the Personal Progress training meeting with her mentee. At that time, we explain to the new Beehive that so and so will be mentoring her, and that it is a new program that we are starting with all incoming Beehives.

We plan to add additional mentors as new Beehives come up from Primary. If (suitable) new mentors are not available, we may add 2 mentees to some mentors if needed.

Here is a break-down of the basics of our Personal Progress Mentoring Program:

If you have YW who have completed the Personal Progress program and are capable/mature of mentoring (hopefully they are, but that isn't always the case), that is ideal. Girls who have completed Personal Progress may use their mentoring hours toward earning their honor bee charm. We also selected 2 girls to be mentors who have not completed Personal Progress, but are self-starters and are working steadily on the program. The main things I would suggest looking for in a mentor are maturity, responsibility, understanding of the program, patience, and kindness. Mentors who have not completed their own Personal Progress program do not earn hours toward their honor bee, but may be able to use their service toward Personal Progress Value Experiences or a Value Project.

In our situation, only Beehives are currently being mentored, but any girl who needs help/support could be mentored. I would suggest having older girls mentoring younger girls if at all possible, to help avoid awkwardness. We plan to add all incoming Beehives to the mentoring program. We prayerfully select which mentees to match up with which mentors.

Members of the YW Presidency who are assigned to check in with certain mentors and get a monthly report (similar to a Visiting Teaching Supervisor). We have one Presidency member assigned to one mentor, but you could also have one person in charge of checking with all the mentors (such as the YW Secretary). It is also helpful to make reminders mid-month, in case the mentor forgets to check in with her mentee.

We hope that using this peer-mentoring system to support and encourage new Beehives to do Personal Progress will help to emphasize the importance of the program and encourage a strong class with testimonies that will eventually be able to lead and mentor young women themselves.

While this solution might not work in every branch/ward, we have been doing this for several months and it has been FANTASTIC! It is another opportunity for these mentor girls to learn the skills they will need to serve in the church and community as adults. As we continue to raise the bar for our missionaries, lets raise the bar in preparing future missionaries (and future parents, future leaders, etc)!

*We normally schedule this meeting with every new Beehive, one or both parents, and the Presidency member over the Beehive class within a week or two of the new Beehive entering the YW Program. They go over the program and answer questions, etc. This had not been done in a while because of the tragic and unexpected loss of one of our Presidency members, but we are getting caught up with this now.

**Please also note that the mentors we selected were given this responsibility as an assignment, not a calling.

Thursday, May 1, 2014


The question for this week's RANDOM QUESTION THURSDAY comes from a very good-looking individual- ME! :)

Since the young women that we serve are always maturing (new Beehives come in from Primary, Laurels graduate, etc) we are bound to have new situations come up that we haven't dealt with before - even if we're seasoned YW leaders.

For example, we have a YW in our ward who has some special needs, but is very enthusiastic about Personal Progress. She has recently become frusterated in her recent attempts to "pass off" Value Experiences that she simply didn't understand. This was a new situation for me.

As a presidency, we decided that we needed to work with her closely to achieve these goals, but also adapt the program to her ability level. But how would we do that? 

The "Adapting to Individual and Local Needs" section of the Personal Progress book says
"Value experiences and value projects may be adapted according to personal or local circumstances, interests, and needs with prior approval of parents and leaders . When making any changes or exceptions for one person, leaders should consider the effect those changes may have on other young women . After careful consideration by parents and leaders, adaptations may be made to meet the needs of young women with disabilities or educational limitations, to meet cultural or individual needs, or to allow young women who are not members to participate"

But how exactly were we going to do that?

I am on the Personal Progress site (a section of found HERE) regularly, but until recently I hadn't noticed that under the "Get Started" section of the site, on the left side of the page, there is a category labeled,  "Personal Progress for Those with Special Needs" (if you click on the title in red here, the pdf version will open for you). This is a printable version of Personal Progress that has been generally adapted for general special needs. The same type and number of Value Experiences and Value Projects are still required, but the Value Experiences and the suggested Value Projects have been somewhat simplified.

This would be a valuable resource for many girls, but I still felt that in our particular situation, it wasn't adapted enough for this certain YW's abilities and needs. This resource could be used as-is for many girls, but certainly will not be appropriate for everyone. There is really no way that they could make a specific pre-made program that would fit every situation. There are as many different social, emotional, and educational ability levels as there are girls who have what we generically call "special needs"

Our particular situation required a much greater level of simplification, so I'd like to share with you what we have done. Again, what we have done may or may not be appropriate for a special-needs girl who you are working with. The young woman that I am working with has severe limitations. What I have done certainly would not be appropriate for most girls. You may be surprised at how much we have simplified the program, but it was the result of much thought and consultation about one specific girl's particular abilities and maturity level. As a Presidency, we have agree that this is an appropriate level to challenge this particular girl, yet still making passing off Value Experiences and Value Projects attainable for her.

I purchased two 3-ring binders. They are identical, except that one was pink (for her) and one was blue.

PINK NOTEBOOK: This is the notebook that this YW will take home with her to work on. I made a cover page that I inserted in the front with the YW's name and "Personal Progress" in large letters. I also used a sharpie marker to write her name and "Personal Progress" on the outside edge of the notebook (to help the family identify the notebook in case the cover page was removed and/or lost). On the inner cover, I also wrote the following (in sharpie marker) "when you have finished your assignment*, bring all your papers and this notebook back to one of the yw leaders during church or mutual". This YW has received several Personal Progress books, but has lost them all. We hope that this notebook will be more difficult to misplace. We are asking her to bring the WHOLE notebook with her, so that a new "assignment" can be entered when the completed one is removed.

BLUE NOTEBOOK: This is the notebook that we will keep in the YW closet at church. I wrote her name and "Personal Progress" on this notebook as well, but I also added the words "YW Leaders Notebook" and "Please leave in the YW closet". We will keep  her tracking sheet, completed "assignments", and a few future "assignments" in this notebook.  The main purpose of this 2nd notebook is partly to prevent the loss of all of her work if her pink notebook is misplaced or lost, but also so that any YW leader can sign-off her work and give her the next "assignment" when she is ready.

*We're referring to the Value Experiences as "assignments" in this case because of the confusion the new lingo was causing her.

"ASSIGNMENTS"/VALUE EXPERIENCES:  Using the Personal Progress for those with Special Needs" as a guide, I typed up ONE Value Experience at a time, each one on its own page. We felt that having multiple options listed on the same page was part of the confusion for her. For each page I made, I made sure that the Value Category and the # of the Value Experience are clearly shown at the top, to make it easier for us as leaders to identify/mark off the completed Value Experience when she completes an "assignment". We will give her these 1-Value Experience "assignments" to her one at a time. 

To give an example of how I have modified a Value Experience/"Assignment", here are all three versions of the Faith Value Experience #2:

FAITH VALUE EXPERIENCE #2 (standard version)
"Discover the principles of faith taught by the mothers of Helaman’s stripling warriors. Read Alma 56:45–48 and 57:21. Review what “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” says about a mother’s role. With a mother, grandmother, or leader, discuss the qualities a woman needs in order to teach children to have faith and to base their decisions on gospel truths. How can these principles help you in your life today and help you prepare to be a faithful woman, wife, and mother? Record your thoughts and feelings in your journal"

"Discover the principles of faith taught by the mothers of Helaman’s stripling warriors. Listen to or read Alma 56:45–48, or listen to, read, or watch “Helaman and the 2,000 Young Warriors” (Book of Mormon Stories, chapter 34). Complete the online puzzle “Two Thousand Young Warriors.” Have your mother, grandmother, or leader share her testimony or a faith-promoting story. Write your thoughts and feelings in your journal. For example, “My mother, grandmother, or leader has taught me ___________.” 

"Learn about Helaman's stripling warriors and their mothers by completing the 4 parts of this assignment:
  1. Read the scripture Alma 56:45-48 (in the Book of Mormon).
  2. Color the puzzle picture in your notebook*
  3. Ask an adult woman (who is a relative or a Young Womens leader) to tell you about a time in their life when they learned about faith.
  4. Draw a picture on this page about what you have learned

 (*"We Do Not Doubt" dot to dot puzzle I found here, printed and placed in the notebook with her assignment)

You  may notice that I did not include online resources such as videos and online games that were suggested, this is simply because this particular girl doesn't have internet access. Otherwise, they would be great to use!

Typing up (and providing additional adaptation) each Value Experience was time-consuming, so I only did a few Value Experiences ahead the first time. We will need to make sure we always have the next one ready for her, because we won't be sure how long it will take her to complete each "assignment"

Of course, we will be providing support and help as needed, but I tried to simplify it to the point that she should be able to complete the assignments with little or no help. Ideally, parents would be able to provide assistance with Personal Progress, but that isn't always possible in every scenario.

Another idea that people have suggested is assigning a YW mentor (another YW who has completed Personal Progress) to work with her. That is a fantastic idea! However, in this particular situation, we have a sister who is called as a YW Leader specifically to work with her, so we feel like having this YW leader and the Beehive leader work with her is the best fit. As with everything else, this will depend on her needs and abilities.

I hope that this gives you a starting place to consider adapting the Personal Progress program for girls in your care who are differently abled.