May 28, 2013 Angelique LaCour, OVN correspondent
In 1996, Ojai’s Tobi Greene gave birth to her daughter, Hannah. Earlier that year, Greene had written in her journal that she dreamed of creating an empowerment workshop for young girls. At the time, she named it L.U.N.A, which stood for Learning, Understanding, Nurturing and Awareness.
“And I have been working on it since the moment Hannah was born,” Greene said.
When Hannah was 10, Greene launched The Girls Empowerment Workshop. “Our workshops create a safe, directed environment where teens can openly discuss issues like body image, sexuality, healthy relationships, and sexual assault awareness,” said Greene. “The girls develop and practice communication skills so they can comfortably and assertively communicate their feelings about their bodies, their feelings and their lives.”
The workshops are presented annually at Nordhoff High School, Chaparral High School, Matilija Junior High School and Ojai Valley School. This year, one-day workshops were also presented at Besant Hill School and to sixth-graders at Topa Topa Elementary School.
The Girls Empowerment Workshop helps parents too. “I feel strongly that the program helped me be a better parent,” said Ojai parent Carolyn Vondriska. “(It) gave my daughter the strength to handle things in a mature manner I don’t think she would have had without it.”
Greene’s daughter, Hannah, is now 17 and continues to be her mother’s inspiration (among other achievements, she was a kicker for Nordhoff’s championship football team this season). “She has developed into everything I had hoped for a young woman to be — confident, respectful to herself and others, able to step out of her comfort zone, speak her mind, and walk alone if necessary.”
Greene also has a son, 13-year-old Finn, who has inspired her to create the Boys Integrity Workshop in recent years. “Watching Finn grow into his teen years has been very eye-opening and allowed me to see all of the issues boys experience too,” Green said. “Having put so much focus on the girls, I overlooked the importance of the boys’ program, and I’m glad that it is now expanding, and will be offered this summer to all boys in the valley.”
The Boys Integrity Workshop was implemented at the Ojai Valley School in 2006, and is now offered at Nordhoff and Chaparral as well. “Similar social issues affect boys and young men,” Greene said. “The integrity workshop gives boys the opportunity to explore their own self-image, sexuality, and how masculinity is portrayed in the media,” Greene said. “Raising boys’ awareness and teaching them strong communication skills allows them the opportunity to be an active part of healthy relationships.”
The Ojai Valley Youth Foundation serves as the umbrella organization for the workshop programs, which reach 400 to 600 teens annually. The Ventura County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Lions Club of Ojai, and Rotary Ojai West have also provided support.
“My vision is to make consistent programs available each year in all of the schools in the Ojai Valley,” Greene said. “I believe we as a community are very strong for the teens here, and will send healthy-minded, confident kids out of this tiny little valley into the world to do great work.”
The Girls Empowerment and Boys Integrity Workshops will be held at the Oak View Park and Resource Center this summer; they are open to all 13- to 18-year-old girls and boys in the Ojai Valley, and are offered at no charge. Registration will be held June 18 at the OVPRC. Visit www.TheGirlsEmpowermentWorkshop.com, www.IntegrityWorkshop.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.