A group of 6th grade girls from Capitol West Academy met routinely throughout the 2017-2018 school year with the purpose of building self-esteem. They ended up building self-confidence – and so much more!
The small group work was formally part of school-based services, a program of SaintA; informally, it was more like an adult-facilitated and student-run grassroots social initiative. Read the blog post below from Julie Scott, SaintA NMT Specialist, to learn about some of the unexpected benefits of an integrated school mental health model.
The group of 6th grade girls came together to utilize many standard group exercises. For example, while in group, we use worksheets and small activities, and in some instances, girls bring social topics to the group to discuss. The group of students are all African American.
During one of our sessions, a group member brought up racial differences that she has noticed on TV and in society, which led the group to discuss racial identity and leadership. They talked about what they notice about minority representation on TV shows, in commercials and in sports.
Ready for Representation
One group member in particular was upset about being under represented and/or at times being misrepresented. We also discussed possible bias and stereotypes of white people toward African American people and minorities. These discussions led us to talking about the community in which they live and what they notice.
The homeless population and other people in need of assistance became a topic of conversation. The girls had very little understanding of the struggle and reasons for homelessness. These conversations ultimately led to them brainstorming what they can do to have a voice in their community and fight bias or feelings of lack of power.
Helping Others as a Reason to Be
This led the girls to start a donation drive to help those in their community. Later, this turned into supporting their CWA family, which provides a sense of community within the school. The girls created flyers and talked to every classroom about their donation project. They made it into a friendly competition; the classroom that collected the most donations won a pizza party and a frozen treat.
They collected items such as tissues, notebooks, pencils, color pencils, highlighters, erasers, folders, cleaning supplies, school uniforms and more!
Through this process, the girls had a perspective shift in how they view the homeless population, themselves and stereotypes. Overall, this group project spoke to the girls’ reason to be as they were able to directly impact their peers at their school, increase their sense of power and participate in a fulfilling project.
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