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Embracing the Journey: Sending Your 18-Year-Old into the World

I found it hard to write the EmpowerGen article these past couple weeks (Last article here). As I stand on the precipice of one of the most significant rites of passage as a parent, the emotions swirl within me like a tempestuous sea. The moment has arrived to bid farewell to my 18-year-old daughter, Summer, as she spreads her wings and steps into the world. The cliché “they grow up so fast” reverberates through my thoughts with an intensity I could never have fathomed. In this chapter of EmpowerGen, I invite you to join me on this emotional journey, as we explore the profound transition of saying goodbye to our children, woven together with the stories of Summer and myself. It’s a story of love, nostalgia, regret, and pride, as we navigate the bittersweet path of letting go.

A Journey through Memories:

Our journey through parenthood is punctuated by a series of moments that have sculpted the individuals our children have become. I find myself reminiscing about the days when Summer sold painted rocks and love potions on Pearl Street, the innocence of her early entrepreneurial ventures, and the dreams she held close since her childhood. Each fragment of memory is a piece of the puzzle that has brought us to this crossroads. It’s a mosaic of shared laughter, late-night conversations, and moments that stitched our souls together.

Embracing Regret and Celebration:

As I reflect on the years that have passed in what feels like the blink of an eye, I’m not immune to the pangs of regret. Regret for the missed bedtime stories, the rushed moments, the times I wished I could have been more present. Yet, these feelings dance alongside an overwhelming swell of pride. As Summer stands at the cusp of her journey, I am reminded of the remarkable young woman she has become. The regrets fade as I witness her resilience, determination, and character, a tapestry woven with threads of experiences and growth.

From Nurturers to Navigators:

The transition from being the constant nurturer to becoming a guiding navigator is both exhilarating and terrifying. Research from the American Psychological Association underscores the importance of fostering independence in young adults, yet the task of relinquishing that protective mantle is a poignant one[^1^]. As Summer embarks on her college journey, I realize that my role has transformed into that of a steady lighthouse, offering guidance from a distance, while giving her the space to chart her course.

The Hero’s Journey Unfolds:

The mythic archetype of the Hero’s Journey finds its echoes in our lives as we witness our children step onto their own paths. As Summer prepares to enter Leeds Business School, her journey mirrors the classic stages of the Hero’s Journey – from the Call to Adventure in her early entrepreneurial endeavors to the Road of Trials and the Crossing of the Threshold into the uncharted territory of adulthood. It’s a narrative that bridges generations, a story that has been retold through countless ages, and now, it’s the story of my daughter.

Finding Strength in Transition:

Our journey, my journey, is not unique. Countless parents have stood at this juncture, faced with the intersection of pride and sorrow, hope and uncertainty. Research from Psychology Today offers insights into navigating this emotional terrain, advocating for embracing vulnerability and seeking support during these times[^1^]. The truth is, as we send our children into the world, we too are in a state of transition – one that challenges us to reframe our perspective, to celebrate the milestones, and to find strength in this poignant release.

girl in orange dress walking on green grass field during daytime


As the last fragments of childhood slip through our fingers, I hold onto the memories that have defined our shared journey. The painted rocks on Pearl Street, the love potions, the laughter – they all converge into this moment of departure. Summer’s journey, intertwined with my own, is an embodiment of the circle of life. It’s a journey marked by tears of nostalgia, the ache of letting go, and the soaring pride that accompanies watching your child embrace the world’s possibilities. And as my son Cody, now 15, takes his steps into adolescence, the cycle continues. The embrace of beginnings and farewells, a dance that defines parenthood.

*To explore more narratives of growth, empowerment, and transition, visit our EmpowerGen column: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)*

[^1^]: Psychology Today – “Navigating the Transition to Adulthood”: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/navigating-the-transition-adulthood

Finding Their Voices: How Art Empowers Youth to Express Themselves and Change the World

Article on AboutBoulder.com

I grew up surrounded by art.  My father, Pasquale Cuppari, was born in Italy and was inspired by nature to become an artist. Growing up in New Jersey, I would sit and paint with him as he meditated on the inspiration coming to him. Through all of the up and down times we went through, we could always come back to art and immerse ourselves in imagination and creativity.  It is one of the things that kept me grounded as a child.

Art can be an expression of the beauty of life. Young people today are challenged to feel connected to this as the world of chaos swirls around them.  In last week’s article we discussed youth mental health and connection to nature. In this week’s article, we will explore how art and creative expression can have a profound impact on the development and well-being of young individuals. We will look at how art can help them cope with stress, discover their strengths, build confidence, and become agents of social change.

I witnessed this firsthand when my father was diagnosed with a serious disease in August of 2020.  My children and I, isolated in Colorado during covid, could not see or comfort him in person as he was in New Jersey and also isolated during covid. 

My kids and I decided we’d connect across geography and generations through art, and we created a virtual art gallery, and at age 14 Summer designed a new website to showcase his art. We learned about NFTs together, we talked, laughed, and created together. We decided to produce a big art show in NYC in the summer of 2022 celebrating his legacy and life through art. Many others felt the authenticity and love we shared as a family with a growing community, and we were covered in Arts Management Magazine.  Additionally, we were invited to display one of his pieces at an Italian Art and Fashion Showcase penthouse in NYC.  As my father’s disease started abating, it struck me how healing it can be to connect with ourselves and each other through art.

Here is a recount of Summer’s experience that summer: “I remember how magical it all felt when my family and I finally pulled off this art show we had all been working so hard on. We all wanted to do something special for my Nonno, to celebrate his life’s work. After hanging the first picture on the wall in the gallery, we all stood there, crowded around his artwork – just admiring the detail and love that was put into the pieces. I have always adored Nonno’s artwork, but when all the people started coming together to look at his artwork, it was the first time I truly felt it was appreciated enough. The effect on our family after this show was inspiring. We all felt closer having worked on this project to honor our beloved grandpa and father, and his health improved tremendously post-showcase.”

Our experience matches the recent research highlighted in the next sections of the article:

The Power of Art in Youth Development: 

Art has long been recognized as a potent tool for personal growth and emotional healing. Art therapy can help youth cope with stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues by providing them with a safe and expressive outlet to explore their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Art can also enhance cognitive abilities such as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and innovation. Art can also foster social and emotional skills such as communication, collaboration, empathy, self-awareness, and self-regulation.

Breaking Barriers and Boosting Confidence: 

One of the biggest challenges that many young individuals face is the fear of judgment and self-doubt. They may feel insecure about their abilities, appearance, or identity. They may struggle to fit in or stand out in a society that imposes unrealistic expectations and norms. Art provides a safe space for them to break through these barriers, encouraging them to embrace their creativity without the fear of failure. By expressing themselves through art, they can build confidence, resilience, and a deeper understanding of their own strengths and capabilities.

A recent study found that participating in arts-based programs can improve the self-esteem and well-being of marginalized youth. The study involved 166 youth from low-income or homeless backgrounds who took part in various arts activities such as photography, painting, music, theater, and poetry. The results showed that the youth experienced significant improvements in their self-esteem, hopefulness, social support, and sense of belonging after participating in the programs.

Fostering Empathy and Connection: 

Art is not only a means of individual expression but also a powerful tool for building empathy and connection among diverse groups. Through collaborative art projects, youth can come together, learn from each other’s perspectives, and develop a sense of understanding and compassion for one another. Art can bridge cultural gaps, promoting cross-cultural exchange and creating a more inclusive and accepting society.

An example of how art can foster empathy and connection in addition to my story above, is the Voices of Youth project by UNICEF. The project aims to amplify the voices of young people from different countries who are facing various challenges such as poverty, violence, discrimination, or displacement. The project uses various artistic mediums such as photography, video, podcasts, and comics to share the stories and experiences of these youth with the world. The project also provides opportunities for dialogue and collaboration among the youth and other stakeholders, creating a platform for mutual learning and support.

Art as a Catalyst for Social Change: 

History has shown us that art can be a driving force for social change. From iconic paintings depicting social injustices to powerful protest songs, art has the ability to challenge norms and advocate for a better world. Empowering youth with art and the tools to express their ideas can inspire them to become active participants in shaping a more just and equitable society.

An example of how art can catalyze social change is the Black Lives Matter mural project. The project involves painting large-scale murals with the words “Black Lives Matter” on streets across various cities in the US and around the world. The project aims to raise awareness and demand action against racial injustice and police brutality. The project also involves the participation and collaboration of local artists, activists, and community members, creating a sense of solidarity and empowerment among them.

The Impact of Playa Puertecito Art Initiatives: 

In our Boulder to Baja project, we are planning to launch an art initiative in collaboration with PeaceJam’s BillionActs Fellows and the city of Loreto in November. We will work with local artists and youth to create murals that reflect the culture, history, and aspirations of Playa Puertecito. The mural project not only beautifies the town but also instills a sense of pride and identity among the residents. We will also teach the youth how to use cameras and capture their surroundings. The photography project not only enhances their artistic skills but also encourages them to see their environment in a new light.

Through these art initiatives, we hope to see the youth develop various skills and competencies such as creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving. We also hope to see them develop positive attitudes and values such as self-esteem, self-expression, empathy, respect, and social responsibility. Most importantly, we hope to see them discover their passions and potentials, inspiring them to pursue their dreams and goals.

Supporting Art Education and Initiatives: 

As we recognize the transformative potential of art, it is crucial to advocate for and support art education and initiatives in schools and communities. By providing access to art programs, we can empower more young individuals to unlock their creative potential and use it as a force for positive change.

There are various ways that we can support art education and initiatives, such as:

  • Donating to or volunteering for organizations that provide art programs for youth, such as Dream Tank, PeaceJam, or American Art Therapy Association.
  • Encouraging schools to integrate art into their curriculum and extracurricular activities, such as through the Arts Education Partnership or the National Art Education Association.
  • Supporting local artists and art projects that involve youth participation and collaboration, such as through the National Endowment for the Arts or the Creative Capital.
  • Providing opportunities for youth to showcase their artistic works and talents, such as through the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards or the International Youth Arts Festival.

Conclusion: Art has the power to empower, heal, and transform young minds. Through artistic expression, youth can find their voices, gain confidence, and forge connections with others. Our Boulder to Baja project stands as a testament to the impact of art in nurturing the next generation of change-makers. Let us continue to support and uplift the creative potential of our youth, fostering a world where artistic expression is celebrated and embraced.

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, v[Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank]

Tags: #youthempowerment, #arttherapy, #creativeexpression, #confidencebuilding, #culturalconnection, #socialchange

  • : American Art Therapy Association. (n.d.). About art therapy. Retrieved from https://arttherapy.org/about-art-therapy/
  • : Malchiodi, C. A. (2012). Art therapy and the brain: An attempt to understand the underlying processes of art expression in therapy. In C. A. Malchiodi (Ed.), Handbook of art therapy (2nd ed., pp. 5-15). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  • : Hetland, L., Winner, E., Veenema, S., & Sheridan, K. M. (2013). Studio thinking 2: The real benefits of visual arts education (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
  • : Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

: McHugh-Grifa, K., & Royer, N. R. (2019). Arts-based programs as protective factors for marginalized youth: A systematic review of the literature. Children and Youth Services Review, 105, 104419. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.10441

Empowering Youth Mental Health: The Healing Power of Nature and Purpose

Welcome back to the eighth week of our EmpowerGen column! As we continue our journey, we shift our focus to a pressing issue affecting youth in both Boulder and Baja: mental health. The rise in suicide rates, school shootings, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the urgency to address mental health challenges among young individuals. In this article, we will explore the transformative potential of connecting youth to nature and purpose, backed by studies and articles that showcase the healing power of these experiences.

The Challenge:

Today’s youth face unprecedented challenges, from academic pressures to social media overload, contributing to a surge in mental health issues. 

The need for mental health support is evident, and we must find holistic approaches to address these challenges effectively.

The Healing Power of Nature:

Numerous studies have highlighted the positive impact of nature on mental health. Spending time in nature has been linked to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. One study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending just two hours per week in nature is associated with better physical and mental health.

Nature as a Source of Purpose:

Beyond its calming effects, nature can also be a catalyst for purpose and personal growth. Engaging in conservation efforts or connecting with environmental causes allows youth to find meaning and purpose in their lives. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that youth engaged in environmental projects reported higher levels of self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

The Playa Puertecito Effect:

Our Boulder to Baja project has allowed us to witness firsthand the transformative power of nature on youth mental health. The magical experiences on Playa Puertecito’s land have kindled a spirit of hope, fostering resilience and a deep sense of purpose among the young participants. As they immerse themselves in the wonders of nature, they also connect with a larger community, forging bonds that support their mental well-being.

Building a Supportive Community:

Alongside nature, fostering a sense of community is essential in supporting youth mental health. The American Psychological Association emphasizes the role of social connections in protecting against mental health issues. Our project emphasizes collaboration and unity, creating spaces where young individuals can feel supported and connected.

Spreading Awareness:

To address the mental health crisis among youth, we must raise awareness and advocate for change. By sharing stories of transformation and the healing power of nature and purpose, we can inspire communities to prioritize mental health support for young individuals.

How you can help someone who is struggling Now:


As we continue our Boulder to Baja adventure, let us remain steadfast in our commitment to empowering youth mental health. The evidence is clear: connecting with nature and discovering purpose are potent remedies for mental well-being. Together, let us support the next generation in navigating life’s complexities with strength, resilience, and a profound connection to the healing power of nature.  

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column,  visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)


1: Youth data 2023 | Mental Health America 4: Kids’ mental health is in crisis. Here’s what psychologists are doing to help | American Psychological Association 2: Prevalence Data 2023 | Mental Health America 3: Mental Health Statistics (2023) – Forbes Health

National Academy of Sciences – Nature and Mental Health: https://www.pnas.org/content/116/11/5187

University of Minnesota – Environmental Projects and Well-Being: https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/184916

American Psychological Association – Social Connections and Mental Health: https://www.apa.org/topics/social-connections

1: 11 Tips to Support Someone Struggling With Mental Health | U.S. News 2: Tips For How to Help a Person with Mental Illness | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness 3: How to Help Someone Who’s Having a Mental Health Crisis | GoodRx 4: Helping others with mental health problems – Every Mind Matters | NHS


Tags: #youthempowerment, #mentalhealth, #awareness, #nature, #healing, #playapuertecito, #anxiety, #stress, #community, #support, #helpeachother, #empoweryouth, #emotions, #balance, #change, #socialmedia, #unity, #hope, #feelbrandnew, #enviroment

Jill’s Journey: Unleashing the Power of Youth and Genius at Playa Puertecito

In our exploration of the transformative realm that is Playa Puertecito, we have encountered remarkable individuals who embody the spirit of youth empowerment. This week, we shine a spotlight on Jill, a beacon of inspiration who has been igniting change via PeaceJam and other projects since the tender age of nine. Her unique perspective on the diverse spaces and worlds that intertwine within and beyond Playa Puertecito unveils profound insights and a passion for creating a world where many worlds fit. If you are interested in reading last week’s article on Playa Puertecito, you can do so here.

From the depths of the sea to the soaring heights of possibility, Jill’s journey has been a testament to the extraordinary power of youth. In the midst of scuba diving and snorkeling adventures, Jill has discovered the remarkable interconnectedness between the environment, experiences, and thoughts. She notices the effortless transitions between different realms, seamlessly navigating the physical world while diving into the depths of her own inner being.

Recently, Jill shared her discovery of the term “genius” and its original meaning—a place that exudes exceptional power derived from natural forces and the people who inhabit it. She draws parallels between the magnificence of Playa Puertecito and the genius that lies within its very essence. Just as ancient Greek spots were revered as genius loci, Jill recognizes the multifaceted elements that converge to create the sheer brilliance of this place. It is not merely the intelligence or knowledge held within individuals but the collective magnitude of all that encompasses Playa Puertecito.

Ancient Greek philosophy recognized the concept of genius loci, the guardian spirits or deities associated with specific places. These spirits were believed to embody the unique essence and power of their respective locations, shaping the experiences and interactions of those who encountered them. The recognition of genius loci is a testament to the profound influence that places hold over human connection and understanding. You can read more here about Why Ancient Athens Was a City of Creativity and Genius – The Atlantic

As we delve into Jill’s remarkable story, we invite you to join us on a captivating journey of discovery and empowerment. Through her eyes, we witness the magic that unfolds within Playa Puertecito and the immense power that young voices possess in shaping a better world. Jill’s encounters with the praying mantis, bioluminescent wonders, bees, and other creatures on the land showcase her deep connection with nature. With a radiant smile and an abundance of trust and love, she welcomes these animals onto her, embracing the profound bond between humans and the natural world.

Join us next week as we unveil the captivating story of Jill, her boundless passion for change, and the extraordinary impact she is making within and beyond Playa Puertecito. Together, let us celebrate the power of youth and continue to cultivate a world where dreams become reality.

To read more empowering articles and share your voice in our EmpowerGen column, visit our website: Join the ‘EmpowerGen’ Revolution – Dream Tank (wearedreamtank.org)

Note: The reference to ancient Greek genius loci is a general concept and not attributed to a specific source. Ancient Greek philosophy and beliefs are widely studied and can be found in various scholarly articles and books on mythology and ancient culture.

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