Fountain of Youth?

I am a 29 year old female teaching artist/facilitator/performer who doesn’t look her age. For many reasons, my young appearance is a boon. First of all, personally it’s flattering that I don’t “look my age” – it is also beneficial in selling myself as an artist who teaches and works with young people, as well as helping gain employment as a performer. However, my appearance also has its drawbacks for work that is very important to me and dear to my heart.
One of my passions coming out of my graduate studies at the University of Central Florida is community-engaged theatre practices, specifically working with teenaged children using theatre for social change ideas/practices. One of my constant struggles as an artist/facilitator in these settings is harnessing my power as a leader/facilitator quickly because the students see me “as one of their peers” or “being a young, powerless female”. It irks me. A lot. The immediate power that male facilitators or older female facilitators have when they walk into a room is something I have to fight for.
While this has been something that I have taken note of over the past 2 years, I have had the wonderful luxury of working with most of my teenage groups over a long period of time. In time, usually after at least 2 sessions, the students get to know me better and will give me their respect, attention, and cooperation. Over LONG periods of time, we were able to create a small community together that is productive, creative, and beneficial for everyone involved.
Lately, however, I’ve begun to take part in a series of workshops that are one-time deals. I only get 2 hours with each group of students during which time many of them will experience a drama workshop like this for the first time and be exposed to the idea of sharing, empathy, and communication. It’s not an easy thing – for me or for the participants. Key to achieving the maximum benefits of the workshop is quickly establishing the students’ trust in me as a facilitator. However, they take one look at me and often decide right then to write me off. I see it in their eyes. Many times I can get their attention when I begin speaking and leading them through warm-up activities….however, there are the classes that once they decide I’m not worth listening to based on that impulse judgment require MUCH more than 2 hours to change their minds.
Here is my dilemma. How can I change this snap judgment? Is the answer to change my appearance? Perhaps that is my best option for these very short, one time deals. I’ve considered having an authority figure at the schools in question introduce me to the class as a method for quickly establishing this. However, I don’t want to be dependent upon another adult. Or perhaps that is being too proud on my part. Over the next few weeks I will experiment with various ideas to see what may improve this situation. I am very open to any ideas/suggestions you may have.
My work is very important to me and making sure that the students I interact with are getting the full benefits of the programs I am leading is vital. I must find a facilitation style that is still true to “me” but is also able to adapt much more quickly to these situations.