She Can Make A Difference
A group of high school students in Columbus has formed a group to inspire and empower young girls.
Mike Foley reports.
She Can Make a Difference started last fall. A small group of Columbus Alternative High School students began visiting an elementary school each week to facilitate discussions of self-esteem with young girls. This year, the group added members and expanded its reach to 20 schools and 30 different classrooms. Columbus Alternative seniors Kanyinsola Oye and Julia Allwein lead the group. Oye and Allwein say body image remains the most common topic.
“What we work on with She Can Make a Difference is the representation, and showing girls that there’s so much diversity in womanhood.” Oye said. “You don’t necessarily have to be one type of woman to be beautiful.”
“It’s also teaching girls that it’s a journey,” Allwein said. “They might not see themselves on TV, but they’re going to get to that place someday where they can see themselves as a powerful woman, and that all women are beautiful not just the one they see on Disney Channel or the one they see in a magazine.”
“I think being in this age group helps so much,” Oye added. “My mom can tell me I’m beautiful all the time, but is it really the same as if my friend tells me I’m beautiful? I think we are like big sisters to these little girls to say we are here for you, and we are still going through this experience, but this is what we are doing to help each other.”
“Our group is really powerful because we have a really good representation of girls from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests so we can show them that the perfect woman is not one kind of woman,” Allwein said.
Part of the group’s message also involves motivating the girls and reminding them that taking a couple steps back doesn’t mean they won’t take another step forward, it just means they’re having a bad day. Oye and Allwein say the interactions with young girls have been meaningful and lasting.
“The mirror activity is where you write down on a mirror what are your insecurities and what you like about yourself," Oye said. "Activities like those allow people to open up. I remember one girl talked to me about it afterward and how the session really helped her. The group has Instagram and Twitter accounts, and she keeps in contact with us with any questions she has.”
“I remember one school early on, and we could see the girls were immediately affected and had a lot of tears," Allwein said. "There was a big bullying problem there. Later that week, a girl texted us that she’s working together with someone who used to not be her friend. That’s very inspiring for us, because the goal is to show girls that it’s not about tearing each other down. It’s a community of girls and we’re all stronger when we work together.”
The group holds a retreat Saturday from noon to 5 pm at Schiller Park Recreation Center. Women from a variety of fields will host activities and speak about their achievements but also their struggles. It’s free and open to girls in grades 4 through 8, and even students outside the district can attend.