Girl Power Movement — more than a catch phrase
A spin off of the Women’s Movement: “Girl Power” gained popularity in the 1990s. In November 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services launched a national education campaign to support and empower girls ages 9-13.
In part, this movement began in order to address the growing concern that girls entering middle and high school are more easily influenced by negative outside influences. Studies suggest that during this pivotal period, girls tend to lose self-confidence become less physically active, perform worse academically, and lose sight of their own dreams and aspirations. In addition, these girls are more at risk of depression, substance use/abuse, eating disorders and teen pregnancy.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that 34.5 percent of high school girls felt sad or hopeless. In fact, girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer from depression. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ninth-grade girls are twice as likely as ninth-grade boys to have suicidal thoughts and attempts. Whereas the self-confidence of boys tends to improve in high school, one in seven girls report low self-confidence.
To further exacerbate this problem, girls are less likely than boys to participate in regular physical activity and are more likely to have eating disorders. As a result of these multiple stresses, girls are at a heightened risk of abusing substances.E
Given that adolescent girls are at an increase risk of multiple problems, it makes sense that the Girl Power Movement has gained momentum over the years. Across the country there are numerous programs that are specifically targeted to help girls. Locally, there are also a number of programs geared toward meeting the special needs of girls. In particular, we at Tahoe Youth & Family Services facilitate a number of groups for girls.
In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, female staff from TYFS run a weekly group for 10- to 14-year-old girls. This group is part of the SMART Girls prevention/education program that focuses on health, fitness and self-esteem. Through art and physical activities, the girls are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Further, the Mentors Plus Program matches elementary and middle school-aged boys and girls with trained adult volunteers from the community. As part of this program, the girls in middle school participate in a weekly support group. Here the girls are provided with a safe place to express themselves and learn positive ways to cope with stress. Finally, TYFS offers a Latina Girls Group at South Tahoe High School.
By now you may be asking yourself, “What can I do to help girls in our community?” One excellent answer is become a positive female role model through the Mentors Plus Program at Tahoe Youth & Family Services. As a mentor you may choose between two mentoring options. The first is providing a one-to-one supportive relationship to a fourth- or fifth-grade student at Al Tahoe or Bijou Elementary schools. This mentoring takes place for a minimum of one hour a week on the school site. You may have lunch, play sports, work in the classroom, or attend a school-sponsored event with the child.
Your other option is to mentor a middle school youth. This relationship is fostered outside the school setting. Some activities you may choose to do with your mentee are go to the movies, skiing, ice staking, bowling, out to eat, and/or shopping to name a few.E
As a caring adult community volunteer you have the wonderful opportunity to help young people make positive choices, achieve academic potential, avoid teen pregnancy and prevent them from turning to drugs, alcohol, and/or gangs. We have more than 20 girls and boys eagerly waiting to be matched with a positive role model. Call Tahoe Youth & Family Services at (530) 541-2445 for more information about how to become a mentor, the Mentors Plus Program, therapeutic programs for girls, and/or other counseling information.
— Linda Hardin is a counselor at Tahoe Youth & Family Services.