ZOE Staff Encourage and Empower Youth Through Prevention Curriculum: Becoming Me

At ZOE, we understand that many of the teens we serve have experienced significant trauma and lack supportive relationships in their lives. That’s why we’ve implemented a peer support group led by ZOE’s Human Trafficking Prevention Program Manager and Lived Experience Expert, Sandy Esparza, to help foster their self-discovery and prevent further cycles of trauma.

This group runs weekly for an hour. In addition to facilitating these groups, Sandy educates the community about human trafficking through workshops and provides victim advocacy support during law enforcement operations throughout the year.

The peer support group provides the girls with insights into their personalities, love languages, friendships, and relationships. It helps them identify red flags and analyze the dynamics within their social circles. Not surprisingly, some of the participants realized they have no one they can truly rely on.

But these groups go beyond just relationships. The sessions cover self-care, with Sandy pampering the girls with small gifts like face masks, lip gloss, and affirmation cards they can display in their rooms. The girls cherish these self-care activities and the opportunity to explore their interests through discussions about favorite foods, colors, and hobbies, something they never had a chance to think about or experience.

While some topics, like family abuse and past trauma, can be difficult to discuss at times, Sandy creates a safe space where the girls feel seen, heard, and understood. They learn healthy coping mechanisms and ways to shift from destructive patterns. She collaborates with ZOE’s Mental Health team so they can follow up on any needs in therapy.

Most importantly, these sessions foster empathy, compassion, and human connection – something many of these youth have been deprived of for far too long. As Sandy shares her own stories of survival and healing, the girls realize they are not alone in their struggles.

ZOE is committed to being that reliable and safe presence to our ZOE youth. Through these groups, we empower them to discover their authentic selves, build self-esteem, and pave the way for brighter futures filled with healthy relationships and unshakable resilience.

Learn more about ZOE’s Home for Youth here.

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