Spaces are filling up fast for a new program for middle school girls at YWCA Greenwich called LiveGirlTalk. The facilitated discussion group has the goal of empowering girls in grades 5-8.
A group of about 15 girls will meet with a mentor on Monday afternoons starting Feb 5. The program runs for 10 weeks.
During the discussion based meetings, the girls will work through a curriculum developed by teachers and a professor at Yale with the goal of developing self esteem and leadership. Weekly units include healthy relationships, body image and social media. Throughout the program the girls are surrounded with positive female role models.
“We decided to focus on this age group because it’s such a vulnerable time,” said Sheri West, founder of LiveGirl during a phone interview on Thursday. “This is the time when girls are replacing their parents with their friends as influencers.”
West said that middle schoolers benefit greatly from having a mentor. In fact, she said, the CDC reported last year that in CT, only 4 percent of teen girls felt comfortable talking to a parent, a teacher or a counselor.
“We have a ton of stressed out kids with no one to talk to,” West said. “Who do they talk to when they’re stressed? It’s important to have a charismatic adult to talk to.”
The LiveGirl program has been a hit in several towns in Fairfield County, including New Canaan, where guidance counselors said the discussions nurtured positive relationships and self-awareness. They also said parents reported an increase in self-esteem in their daughters at the completion of the program.
“LiveGirl complements our school-wide Social Emotional Learning initiatives beautifully,” said Sarah Beltran, a Saxe Middle School Counselor.
West said LiveGirl has also partnered with The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis and Education in Stamford, with the goal of breaking through existing “social scripts.”
“High school girls have a script, and with daily sexual harassment, it’s hard to break out of that script and deal with it. We have these workshops that are really round table discussions, where they learn it’s okay to have personal boundaries, and it’s okay to speak out about that,” West said.
LiveGirl includes a unit that focuses on social media.
“Last fall we launched a social media campaign called ‘A Million Likes.’ The key message is a million likes is not enough if you don’t like yourself,” West said, adding that middle school girls seem to focus on a new app every week. “Now it’s Snapchat and Instagram. Kids are sharing very inappropriate stuff and they’re exposed to nasty stuff on social media.”
Also, West said, “Kids are getting their iPhones younger and younger. You have a lot of 5th graders on social media.”
West summarized LiveGirl values as: live your true self, live brave, live kind, and live your power.
“The YWCA is thrilled to partner with LiveGirl to provide this important leadership opportunity for middle school girls in Greenwich,” said Meredith Gold, Director of Domestic Abuse Services at YWCA Greenwich. “The activities and content, facilitated by experienced mentors, is directly in line with our mission of empowering women and girls.”
The program, which is free of charge, runs ten weeks on Mondays from 3:30-4:15 pm, February 5th through April 23 (excluding public school breaks.)
For more information and to register your girl in grade 5-8, visit the LiveGirl website.