What is The FUSIoN Project?
Research shows* that middle schoolers have low self-esteem. In fact, it’s typically at its highest right before puberty and plummets to its lowest when puberty hits. Low self-esteem correlates with higher prevalence of victimization. All humans have an innate need to be known, validated and cared for, but this need is especially pressing for preteen and teens due to their developmental stage, where they begin seeking this outside parental influence. They often are in the beginning stages of trying to build their identity and sense of self and struggle with feelings of worth and capability. As they have always had this as an outside influence, this population tends to look outside for these needs to be met and unfortunately, people line up to take advantage of them. Middle schoolers are vulnerable because of this and are at higher risk of being taken advantage of as a result.
We believe self-esteem, or the lack of, is like a pebble thrown into the water. The act itself starts a ripple effect that goes out all around the pebble. No two pebbles create the same ripple, just as no two teens choose exactly the same response to their experience. But the potential ripples are the same. Research* has demonstrated that self esteem issues, rooted in our formative years, have lasting effects in the ways in which we navigate our world and relationships well into adulthood. Ripples can go both ways, amplifying positive influences or negative ones. People struggling with self worth often struggle with depression, self-harm, anxiety, eating disorders, isolation, and are at higher risk for bullying, dysfunctional relationships, drug use, and sex trafficking. While this does not always happen, the increases we are seeing in our communities points to a need that we at the Fusion Project want to address preventatively instead of addressing the impacts after the fact. This program helps to create protective factors that will allow girls to see their worth, find their voice and find coping skills that are healthy and empowering.