Martin City Lady Leaders Build Self-Esteem Among Girls
By Kathy Feist
“How can you turn your can’ts into cans?” The Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader named Pamela asks a room full of middle school girls. A few hands go up with suggestions before Pamela launches into her own obstacles in becoming a cheerleader.
“Everyone told me I was nuts,” she recalls. “But it was something I wanted to do.”
Before long, Pamela is teaching the girls how they too can overcome negative feedback in order to reach their goals in life.
Pamela is just one of many speakers who promotes self-esteem to young members of the Martin City Lady Leaders. The organization, founded a year and a half ago, is designed to teach positive behavior and skills to handle stress and peer pressure among middle school-aged girls. The girls meet every Thursday after school at the Martin City Middle School. Snacks and sometimes full meals are donated by area restaurants, such as Minsky’s, Dos de Oros, and Martin City Pizza.
Since its inception, topics have included leadership, bullying/conflict resolution, family dynamics, self-defense and self-esteem. In Pamela’s discussion, she touches on almost all of those, including being bullied by others.
“It’s tough being a young lady,” she says. “But we can’t accomplish anything by tearing each other apart.”
She then asks the girls to crumple up a piece of paper. They can even stamp on it if they choose. The main objective, the girls soon realize, is that no matter how they try, they cannot smooth out the wrinkles on the paper.
“It won’t go back,” points out Pamela. “Our words have power. They leave lasting impressions on people.”
In April of 2014, Unilever, the makers of Dove soap, released studies regarding self-esteem among girls. The studies reported that 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members. In addition, as many as 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. The top wish among all participating teen girls in the study was for better communication with their parents, including frequent and open conversation.
It was around this time when Mike Lane, a community member involved in the Grandview School District’s Bright Futures program, was inspired to address the issue. He and other members of the program, including the district’s social worker Karla Harris and the school’s counselor Cindy Coomer, devised the after-school program for girls. Jolynn Lane, Mike’s wife and owner of a screen-printing business, contributed pink hoodies with a slogan printed on the back: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
Every eight weeks, a new group of 15 girls begins the program. The current group that started in January will have its last meeting on March 7. A new group of young ladies will immediately follow.
Pamela has written several negative characteristics on a dry eraser board. One by one, each girl erases a word and replaces it with a positive trait.
“How do you want to be remembered in life?” asks the cheerleader. Hands go up and girls excitedly give suggestions. “None of us wants to be remembered for those negative [characteristics]”, she says. “They don’t get you far in life. I know that’s not how I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as great!”
It is another inspiring meeting for the Martin City Lady Leaders. No doubt Pamela will be remembered as great among these young ladies.
The non-profit organization welcomes community participation, whether through donations of after-school food and drinks, gift cards, or speakers. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-316-5129.
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