Today’s blog post is by Communities In Schools of Southern Nevada Site Coordinator Adande Lane.
What does it mean to be a “lady” in today’s society?
How does a contemporary young woman behave and represent herself in a manner that is self-affirming and authentic to her individuality? Are the bonds between high school-aged girls so strained that real friendship and sisterhood are out of the question, or have these concepts simply been forgotten? Or worse, unlearned? These are some of the questions our new Emerging Women’s Group at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas, Nevada attempts to address. Twenty young women, with participants at each grade level, get together twice a month to discuss personal identity development and the commonality of shared experiences. New girls will be selected to join each year, but those who already participated will be invited to return. This is a new program and I look forward to watching it grow over the years.
The community we serve here in North Las Vegas is one of the most underprivileged in the valley. Low-attendance rates and high-pregnancy rates have identified the students in this area as particularly at risk for dropping out. As a result, the one-on-one relationships that we build have become integral to these ladies’ lives and their personal development.
When the discussion about campus-wide needs arose among students, many young women pointed to the fact that teenage girls were having trouble interacting with each other in a mature, responsible manner. This realization disappointed me, but with the support of the staff at Communities In Schools of Southern Nevada, a program to encourage the empowerment of women was implemented with the students of Canyon Springs in mind.
Young women who would benefit from sharing their stories were referred to the program, along with those who might find comfort in hearing the stories of others their age. With the concept of camaraderie in mind, this dynamic circle of ladies very quickly realized they have much more in common than gender. The first session, designed to break barriers of silence, was powerful in that it established common threads of struggle many young women face on a daily basis. These students have endured abusive relationships, self-doubt, low self-esteem, poor decision-making, the deaths of friends and family, addiction and so much more. Many of them were surprised that so many other girls were facing similar troubles. They seemed completely caught off guard when we were able to quantify their similar experiences and opinions.
It did not take long for the young women to form a bond that intensifies with each meeting. Through our discussions these ladies are discovering their self-confidence, life’s value and their own ability to navigate their paths. Many simply needed a safe space to see the strength in being their authentic selves. Others needed an avenue to discover who they are and who they want to be. Each session is concerned with the power of self, and the ability to grow beyond personal fears and circumstances. We end each session as we begin, in an uninterrupted circle holding hands in support of each other.
Communities In Schools is known for the incredible one-on-one relationships between its site coordinators and students. This foundation of personal investment contributes to the environment of trust and success that we experience as the result of our unique programming. The Emerging Women’s Group is just one example of our efforts to improve students’ overall commitment to their own future development.