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Personal Progress Dreaming

by Deborah

Jeans, at the indispensible Young Women’s Helpsite Beginnings New, has a posted a great review of the revised Personal Progress program. Kathryn Soper uncovers the not-so-hidden-agenda behind the color of the cover.

All of which got me thinking about this post from FMH circa 2005. I think it was one of the first threads I ever participated in, a full year before we started the Exponent blog — at least it was the first one I felt invested in. Oh, the early days of the bloggernacle!  You see, I liked Personal Progress (mostly) as a teen.  And when I served in a YW presidency, I saw the potential — sometimes unfulfilled but sometimes realized — in this program.

So I could vent about the pink subtext or the leadership-for-future-role-as-wife-and-homemaker (which seem robotically inserted into all things YW these days). But I thought instead I’d return to the question FMH posed five years ago:  How would *you* improve personal progress?  What would have made it more meaningful for you? For your daughters or students? How have you modified it to meet the needs of YW in your life?  I discovered, when I was in YW, that there is *always* room for creativity . . . so dream away.


Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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13 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    How interesting to read those posts you linked to. I’ve never served in YW so have never paid any attention to Personal Progress. And even though I was Laurel president back in high school (the acme of my church career) I opted to not do Personal Progress – I was much too concerned with earning top grades to want to spend any time doing P.P. So anyway, I’m out of the loop on this one.

    Some things that do come mind that I would like to see in it (if they are not already).

    — an acknowledgement of the many different lives these YW will lead – single, married, divorced, working, mothering, community members, etc.

    — emphasis on education and career preparation

    — lots of flexibility so that girls who like sports or manga or whatever thing that’s not traditionally considered feminine can look at this program and see themselves in it.

  2. Angie says:

    I started PP when it was the green book; we did two projects a year in each category. Does anyone else remember that book? Then the YW program introduced the new theme, values, and PP. Something about a mighty wave crossing the whole earth… I remember loving that image.
    I have always been very goal-oriented, so I just used the things I was already accomplishing in school and the community for my PP goals. It seemed pretty easy to me when I did that.

    I have worked in the YW program, but not inthe last ten years or so. What I remember of PP is that it is phenomenal – a powerful system of organizing a teenage girl’s activities according to eternal principles. Again, from what I remember, the values and structure of PP are broad enough for personal interpretation and application. Many of the YW I worked with in the late 1990’s did things like scrapbooking projects to fulfill PP. But that was not in any way suggested as the only way to do PP. There was (is?) plenty of room for individuality within PP.

  3. kew says:

    I’d like MUCH more emphasis on career and educational goals, as well as sports/adventure activities.

  4. Deborah says:

    I would also steer girls toward academic goals, which receive short shrift in the last incarnation of the program. This does not need to come at the expense of spiritual and domestic goals.

    The last time I worked in YW, it was in an inner-city ward and the high school most of the girls attended was a violent place. I saw a value in doing a little “redesign” of the “knowledge” activities and steering the girls toward academic goals — from how to study to preparing for standardized tests to learning key skills to preparing to apply to college/trade school.

    As I wrote in that FMH thread all those years ago: I believe that promoting education and literacy should be a stated mission of the church youth programs — especially in areas (urban, rural, third world, etc) where this cannot be taken for granted. It is culturally simplistic to imagine that economically disadvantaged teenage girls will be in the position to choose to be full-time homemakers (above the poverty level) if they do not have the opportunity for higher education or to learn a marketable trade. The Perpetual Education Fund is a wonderful example of the Church’s commitment to helping its members break the cycle of poverty — the Personal Progress Program to also work towards this end.

    I have always admired Quaker history for their tremendous commitment to quality education. Many major religions follow a similar commitment to educate youth in mind and spirit (Catholic schools, Jewish schools, Episcopal schools). I am NOT advocating that the church should enter the K-12 education business as a rule (though doesn’t the church run schools in Tonga?). I am suggesting that a commitment to the youths’ education is in keeping with the teachings of the prophets, past and present.

    Personal Progress, as much as an activity manual, is forum to communicate to the YW what is *most important* for their future. One need not diminish parenting to include make the education emphasis more prominent. It would reaffirm the spiritual importance education for YW for those who need it least, and could provide real, invaluable help for those who need it most.

  5. Alisa says:

    Deborah, I think you bring up an excellent point about cultural sensitivity. I grew up on the east benches of Salt Lake, which is where many/most of the Church’s general board members and presidencies for RS, YW, and Primary come from. When I hear these leaders speak, they speak to this upper middle class culture where the majority of women were SAHMs. What’s interesting to note is how many of the YW who went through those programs with me have had to prepare for careers and long periods of being single or childless. So while I see that shift in the generations for women of the same socio-economic status, I hadn’t even really thought about the YW who won’t have the opportunity to meet/date many LDS YM, who won’t have the luxury of a righteous Priesthood holder providing from them in their early 20’s while they get to have young ones at home.

    But going back to the Utah culture from which I think a lot of these decisions are made, the Church is losing a lot of their singles – in Sandy, UT they have identified the age of 24-30 as a time when single LDS men and women have a particularly hard time staying active and often drop off from activity altogether. I think changing the PP program to help YW survive as single sisters in RS, or as working sisters, would do so much to strengthen the young adult base of the Church. This could be done through what’s already been advocated here – more focus on education, career preparation, and even the idea that the temple endowment might not happen for these sisters until later in their mid- or late-twenties, particularly if they choose to not go on a mission. There should be more accommodation for those who will not fall into the norms, as these are the ones who may be more likely to be lost in the long run.

  6. Two of Three says:

    I second Caroline’s thoughts. I have a daughter who feels so out of place in YW, because she is not the typical teenage girl. She is into manga/anime and lives at the library (she is a librarian-wannabe!). She loaths crafting and “glamour nights”. At my bishop’s suggestion, I do not make her go to YW. She chooses to go to church activities that she is interested in. I wish there were more things available to her and her interests. I do not push the P.P. program on her. It is her choice not to do it. I have one other teen who does like the program and I support her in that too. I have learned to accept each of my kids for who they are, not who I want them to be. It took me too long, but we are all happier now.

  7. Deborah says:

    “I have learned to accept each of my kids for who they are, not who I want them to be. It took me too long, but we are all happier now.”

    That made me inexplicably teary. Yay, Two of Three (BTW,I am curious about your moniker . . . ). Have the YW leaders respected her decision to opt out of PP?

    Alisa, I hear you and when I have more energy, I’ll respond!

  8. Two of Three says:

    Deborah- The young women’s leaders encourage her but do not pressure her. I am greatful for that. They have shown her nothing but unconditional love. We have a great YW president. BTW, I am the second of three sisters. They are my rock in this world of endless mud!

  9. Tracy M says:

    LIke I said on the BCC thread, I think I would prefer a Young People program. Have the young men and young women have the same teaching materials, same goals, same rewards, and same recognition. Everyone needs to know how to light a fire, cook a simple meal, tie useful knots, search for clean water in the wilderness, mend a shirt, do first aid- these need not be taught to solely men or solely women. I also think it would level the field. If young women were competing for the same honors the young men get, it would be fair- Instead of a boy getting a Court of Honor, and a girl getting a handshake on a random Sunday from the pulpit.

  10. EmilyCC says:

    What a fun post, Deborah! I love fantasizing about PP. I’ve always been excited about it and a little sad that more YW and YW leaders don’t feel the same way I do.

    I think the focus on education and career exploration is so important for the reasons other commentors have said much better than I would have.

    But, I also think the PP program could be a great tool for encouraging spiritual literacy and deeper study of the scriptures and doctrine. As a YW leader and YW, I often felt like it didn’t quite go far enough. I haven’t been in YW’s for almost 6 years now; I hope that has changed.

    We often tell kids and adults to “study the scriptures” and their questions will be answered, but it would be nice if we provided them with more tools and guidance about how to do this.

  11. Kelly Ann says:

    I have been visiting my TBM sister who is Young Women’s President over a large program. I never really thought about the responsibility that lies on her shoulders to try to reach each girl individually. She is creative and really does her best but isn’t perfect. It has made me appreciate the fallibilities of my own leaders. I had a relatively good experience with YW and PP but also wish sometimes that I hadn’t wasted so much time on some things associated with it. I hope the women and young women in the church continue to find ways to improve it.

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