The Daily Independent, Ashland, March 22, 2017
Middle-school girls’ day out builds resiliency and self-esteem
By MIKE JAMES
COALTON - The message came through loud and clear: you’re smart, you’re beautiful, you can do anything you want to do.
The middle-school girls walked through the doors and saw it instantly.
It was in the tables clad in formal cloths with silvery centerpieces.
It was in the selfie booth with the goofy outfits for clowning and vamping.
It was in the eyes of the women sitting at each table, women of various occupations and stations in life, all of whom volunteered their time to meet with the girls and offer them guidance and support on their journey toward adulthood.
Tuesday was a girls’ day out, albeit with a serious purpose, for every seventh-grader at Boyd County Middle School. The girls gathered at the Boyd County Fairgrounds for lunch and camaraderie with each other and adult role models.
“Pretty cool. They didn’t just give us a paper and pass it around. They put so much effort into this,”?said Chloe Boyd, waiting for her closeup at the selfie booth.
“It’s like they actually care about us,” said her friend Jada Johnson.
The first-time initiative is meant to boost self-esteem among a typically vulnerable — and sometimes overlooked — group of girls, said parent-organizer Kelli Totten. “Seventh grade can be one of the hardest years at middle school,”?said Totten, whose daughter is in that grade at Boyd County.
Organizers enlisted the help of volunteers, who Totten called “strong women in the community” to attend, meet and connect with the girls in hopes they would set examples for them to follow.
When girls sat at their tables their adult luncheon companion might have been an engineer, a stay-at-home mother or an attorney; young and child-free, a mother with kids in school or a grandmother.
What they could count on was a supportive and sympathetic friend with whom they could share their thoughts.
“This age group needs encouragement to be themselves. There’s a lot of peer pressure for them to be something they’re not,”?said Tanya Basham, who is a stay-at-home mother. “You never know what you’ll say that a child will carry with them the rest of their life.”
Seventh-graders were chosen because “they’re in the middle of the middle and we wanted to do something special for them,” said Alison Bays, a counselor at Boyd County Middle School. Eighth-graders typically get their share of special events, what with class trips and career counseling, and sixth-graders reap the benefit of being the youngest. “They’re the babies, so we coddle them,”?Bays said.
“We hope we can inspire them to reach their dreams. We want to encourage them to do their best in school and at home,”?Bays said. “We want them to learn to be resilient.”
The girls-only structure was intentional, on the premise that girls will talk more freely and behave more naturally than if boys were present, Bays said.
Organizers hope to develop a similar event for middle-school boys.