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Ashley Bendiksen        

Top Youth Speaker, Expert on Domestic & Sexual Violence, Award-Winning Activist

Ashley Bendiksen is an award-winning advocate and top motivational speaker for students and educators. She combines masterful storytelling with deep expertise and practical strategies that drive change.

For more than a decade, Bendiksen has made a transformational impact on the lives of youth and the adults who serve them. Despite being homeless, a college dropout, and a victim of dating abuse, Bendiksen rose to achieve extraordinary success.

Defying the odds, Bendiksen became Class Valedictorian, an award-winning activist, and a nonprofit founder. She also discovered her purpose, becoming an acclaimed expert in mental health, resilience, healthy relationships, and leadership development.

Bendiksen is living proof that “anything is achievable.” Her powerful story motivates students of all backgrounds to aim high, believe in themselves, and achieve their dreams – from struggling at-risk students to motivated student leaders.

Bendiksen’s personal experience is supported by 14 years of professional leadership in the fields of violence prevention, health and wellness, leadership development, and social justice across the education, nonprofit, civic, and government sectors. Bendiksen holds a B.A. in Administration of Justice from Salve Regina University, is certified in victim advocacy, and is a certified life empowerment coach. She is also extensively trained in trauma response, child trauma, cognitive behavioral therapy, and supporting LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and non-cis communities.

Speech Topics


Resilience & Managing Challenges: Choosing to Rise

Through powerful, real-life storytelling Ashley teaches students the skills they need to stay positive and focused when faced with life challenges, disappointments, or sudden plot twists. As someone who has overcome adversity, Ashley knows the power of mindset and perspective, as well as seeking help when help is needed. She also knows that great opportunity always exists in moments of perceived limitations. This presentation, therefore, combines Ashley’s story, with simple but effective strategies every student can implement when facing obstacles.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

  • How to stay motivated and focused
  • How to manage negative emotions
  • Power of reframing and positive thinking
  • Strategies for self-care and social/emotional well-being

Leadership & Achievement: Anything is Achievable! From Big Vision to Reality

From homeless and a college dropout to Valedictorian, award-winning activist, nonprofit founder, and social entrepreneur, Ashley is living proof that “anything is achievable.” Her story motivates students of all backgrounds to aim high and believe in themselves – from struggling at-risk students to motivated student leaders. This presentation helps students stay focused, motivated, and positive – no matter what challenges they face. It also inspires students to discover who they are, define what they want, set big goals, and become leaders – personally, in their communities, and even globally.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

  • Discovering YOU and YOUR biggest vision
  • Reframing challenges to see possibilities
  • Daily practices for self-leadership
  • Active participation and experiential learning
  • Overcoming adversity, succeeding in a non-traditional path
  • *Variation: Idea to Impact, Launching a Social Change/Advocacy Project

Staff Development: Be a Lifeline! Empowerment to Intervene

It’s critical for youth-serving adults to stay informed on the issues today’s youth face, plus know how to effectively respond or refer help for a student who’s been harmed. This presentation helps adults understand the prevalence and secondary impact of teen dating violence on students, and their role to help a student in need. Attendees will hear Ashley’s story, coupled with valuable education and skills training. Depending on the audience, Ashley can also address how to role model healthy relationship skills across all ages. For direct service providers (those working with abused or at-risk youth), Ashley offers professional development for improved and effective response and support.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

  • Teen dating violence awareness + common red flags
  • Secondary impact on SEL, academic, and student well-being
  • Simple intervention and referral techniques
  • Increased overall school wellness
  • *PD Variation: Trauma-informed and empowerment-based support

Dating Violence Prevention: Stand Up, Speak Out, and Press Reset!

At 14, Ashley was excited about her first dating relationship. Unfortunately, it became abusive, starting a cycle of unhealthy relationships that would negatively impact Ashley during her entire adolescence – personally, socially, emotionally, and academically. Sadly, Ashley’s story is not unique. In the U.S., 1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence, while 1 in 5 high school students know someone being abused. This can be physical, sexual, or more commonly, emotional. These behaviors impact student mental health, safety, social-emotional well-being, and academic achievement.

As a survivor turned subject matter expert, Ashley teaches teens what a healthy relationship looks like, what to watch out for, and what to do when abuse occurs.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

  • Awareness of dating abuse and top red flags
  • Qualities of a healthy relationship
  • How to set boundaries and priorities
  • Seeking help and how to help a friend
  • *Variation: sexual assault awareness, prevention, and consent

Bystander Intervention: Your Power as a Difference Maker

As bystanders, every student has the power to be a leader, helper, and change-maker in social settings. Bystanders play a key role in preventing harm. Unfortunately, research shows that most bystanders don’t act because they’re just not sure what to do or how to help. This dynamic and interactive presentation helps turn ‘passive bystanders’ into ‘active bystanders’ through education, simple intervention strategies, role-playing, and scenario-based activities.

A proven violence prevention tool, students will learn to spot risks and harm (from assault to bullying and hate speech) and learn easy but effective techniques to intervene.

LEARNING OUTCOMES:

  • Leadership as a bystander
  • Increased sense of responsibility to help
  • How to spot red flags and safely offer help
  • Finding your unique intervention “style”
  • Enhanced school culture, attitudes, safety and wellness

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