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Our After School Journaling Program

We at I Am Aria got our feet wet well before summer was even a thought this year! Well, there was actually no water involved, but we did take a plunge into the wonderful world of working with youth on journaling.  Best of all, the  I Am Aria After School Journaling program made a huge splash – for us and the ten teens involved.  Here’s a peek into our journey as we explored what a powerful and creative experience journaling can be.

The teens of the I Am Aria after school journaling program

Our first two sessions surpassed our hopes for the program. After giving the girls their journals and colored pen sets, we focused on understanding all the forms journaling can take, and each participant set up their own creative space within the blank journal they received.  There was a magical exuberance shared by all as they first interacted with their journals. 

For Our Readers! If you’re feeling inspired, here’s a website that explains ten types of journaling. There’s bound to be one that fits your personal style.

As the students arrived for each of the following sessions, they got to leave the hustle and stress of the school day behind and just sit down quietly with their journal while we all gathered. In this time, each of the girls started writing or sketching – whatever they felt in the moment. One of the elements that made this an extra special time was our color coding. Each color in their set of pens was attached to a different emotion. During these first moments, we asked them to reflect on what the biggest emotion was that they were carrying with them as their school day ended and their afternoon and evening began – and then use that pen to do their first journal entry of the day

Students writing in their journals during the after school journaling program. St. Petersburg

Once we were all together and had a few minutes to decompress, we gathered in what we called “Circle Up” time. The girls came with the color they chose when they were writing, but after the very first session, they twisted our arm into letting them come to the Circle Up with two colors. During each Circle Up, each got to share as little or as much as they wanted about why those colors/emotions were strongest for them in that moment. It was impactful for us to see that they very quickly became comfortable sharing the events that had stirred that emotion up within them. Of course, there were always some laughs, too. There was definite empowerment in the fact that they were able to identify their feelings, the cause of the feeling, and still maintain a sense of humor.

Students circling up for discussion time during after school journaling program.

Throughout the sessions, we explored a variety of topics related to positivity and mental health wellness. Some of the topics included: the effects of social media, how creativity fosters a positive self-image, how affirmations can get us through hard times, attitudes of gratitude, and what it means to “pay something forward.” For each topic we read quotes, watched videos, and had discussions. After each topic the girls could then express how that topic might be something they wanted to explore further or they could simply go back to writing whatever they started when we first arrived.

Students listening to I Am Aria founder during after school journaling program in St. Petersburg

To be honest, each session went so well and was so jam-packed with great conversation, meaningful reflection, some snacking (of course), and time to be with the pages in their journals, that we hardly ever made it out to the parent pick up area on time. It’s only been a few weeks since our last session for this school year and already these young ladies are missed. It only inspires us to make this part of what we do even BIGGER in the fall. Stay tuned.

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