Sophie Penn is much more than a Listener on the hotline. For the past two years at Teen Line she has been a role model, LGBTQ teen speaker, friend and mentor. This is why she has been awarded the 2019 Mentoring Award.
Complete this sentence, “My name is Sophie Penn and I am….”
“……. awestruck by Teen Line and the amazing people around me.
1. Why did you join Teen Line?
I joined Teen Line in the Spring of my Sophomore year because I felt like I not only wanted to help other people cope with their mental health struggles, but I felt like I needed that help myself. I wanted to be in a supportive environment surrounded by other teens who were feeling the same things I was feeling. I wanted to take my experience and use it to help other people. At the time, I was also still in the closet, so I wanted a community of people who I knew I could really trust, people with whom I could be 100% myself. I found that and so much more at Teen Line. I really wish I’d started earlier.
2. What is greatest lesson you’ve learned from working on the hotline?
The greatest lesson that I’ve learned from working on the hotline is that every issue or struggle can mean the world to someone. Every issue, no matter how insignificant we may think it is, can deeply affect someone’s state of mind. When someone tells you they’re struggling with something, try to put yourself in their shoes to understand how upsetting, frustrating, or stressful it may be. Dismissing the issue by saying that “there are worse things someone could be dealing with” or something similar is just invalidating and not helpful to anyone. Listen to people; make others feel like their feelings have value.
3. What are 3 things that help you de-stress?
a. Making art. I’ve been taking ceramics at school for the past four years, and I find it to be one of the most cathartic activities. Sometimes I’ll go into the studio after school to clear my thoughts and take some time to myself. I also really enjoy painting the walls in my garage. It’s like artistic meditation.
b. Journaling. I love actually writing in my journal, but sometimes, when I’m too tired or don’t feel like writing, I’ll go on my secret tumblr blog and just write out my thoughts so that I can go back and look at them later.
c. Dancing terribly. When my friends and I get stressed out, we start playing music and jumping around to try to shake out all that stress. We sing and dance and enjoy each other’s company, and it always makes me feel better.
4. What are your plans for after high school ?
After high school, I will be studying behavioral psychology, sociology, history, and probably many other things to use what I’ve learned at Teen Line to make a greater impact on the world.
5. Can you share an example of a teen-to-teen connection where you felt like you made a difference?
One moment I’ll always remember was when some of my fellow queer volunteers and I spoke in front of one of the new training groups. Normally, we have a group from the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center come to speak, but when they had to cancel, our training director, Jenny, asked us to tell our own stories. I talked about my own coming out, then listened to new volunteers share their own experiences understanding their sexualities. To be so vulnerable in front of a group of strangers and then hear that they could relate was really eye-opening. I felt like sharing my story had helped them feel more comfortable sharing theirs.
6. What will you miss most about Teen Line?
What I will miss most about my time at Teen Line is the connections I’ve made to other teen volunteers and to the RAs (the mental health professionals who supervise our shifts). I’ve never met a kinder, more accepting, more understanding group of people. I’ll truly miss getting to know new people with the same passion for mental health activism.
The Teen Line Food for Thought Brunch will be on Sunday, May 5, 2019 at the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center. We will be honoring Sophie, as well as other admirable teen volunteers. For event and ticket info, click here.