Communities In Schools of Central Texas Program Manager Jordan Chaplik works in Zavala Elementary School in Austin, Texas, where she leads the Zavala 4th Grade Girls Empowerment Group. Jordan reflected on the need for and impact of groups like hers and asked her young ladies to talk about what they’re made of and what they think are the greatest challenges young women face today in celebration of International Women’s Day 2019.
In my role, I see that many of our young girls are struggling with self-esteem and the impacts of bullying. I see that the line between ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ is often blurred, which I understand to be a result of the intensity and frequency of the problem in our world today. Kids are constantly picking on one another, comparing themselves to one another, and putting each other down to take back some aspect of control and power in their lives. I also don’t see many opportunities for kids to learn the impact of their actions – rather many of our schools still rely on traditional disciplinary actions in response to bullying, which typically don’t allow for kids to truly reflect on how their actions impact individuals and the school community. Without this intentional reflection and learning, I see the cycles of bullying continue to persist throughout our classrooms.
Our group has been working on themes such as self-esteem, conflict resolution, emotional regulation, bullying and conflicts at home. I have seen these young girls work to build trust with one another and share parts of their inner and outer lives that they don’t typically share with anyone else. This group has cultivated a brave space in which the girls have a chance to express themselves freely and openly, as well as a place for them to support one another and see that they are not alone in their struggles.
Each week, I also notice that they are starting to take on more leadership roles within the group. I don’t need to facilitate as much as I did at the start of our group. One person steps up to start the check-in. They respond to one another after they share something, finding points of connection or validating that person’s experience and feelings. This group gives me so much excitement for this new generation of young people, and I am honored to share space with these girls and bear witness to their group every week.
We had so much fun doing a photoshoot for International Women's Day, but I was surprised by the gravity of the answers given when I asked the girls what challenges they see young women facing today. The juxtaposition of the fun, carefree photos and the thoughtful answers really sums up what these young ladies are made of: joy, hope, silliness, bravery, awareness, and strength. Check out the photos and answers here.