- Gini Bramlett
- South County Spotlight - Features
The Girls' Circle, a program offered at MTC Works in St. Helens, is designed to help girls with self-esteem, maintain connections with peers and to allow for self-expression in a private setting
Through the eyes of a teenaged girl, life can seem daunting, especially if she's from a family who's never taught her about goal-setting or encouraged positive thinking. And, what if she has a poor self-image or doesn't have a safe place to express herself?
Girls' Circle, a national program offered through Management and Training Corporation (MTC) in St. Helens, is offering structured support groups for girls to foster self-esteem and to counter trends of self-doubt. The first class that just finished up 'Who I Am,' met weekly for eight weeks and helped the girls learn assertiveness skills and to examine their own identity.
The purpose of Girls' Circle is to create an environment that allows self-expression through verbal sharing and creativity. In some cases, at-risk girls are referred by the juvenile department. Programs like this can sometimes make the difference for girls on the edge.
To participate, girls need only the desire to make a commitment to attend meetings and agree to follow the circle guidelines: no interruptions or putdowns allowed, offer personal experience rather than advice, keep the focus on one's self, and keep what's said in the group private. 'What happens in the circle stays in the circle,' said class facilitator and workforce specialist Diana Nish.
Through listening and respect for themselves and each other, girls can reflect on and express their own thoughts and feelings with peers. The focus is to offer girls a venue to share experiences that are helpful to each other.
Karen Woods, a 2007 St. Helens High School graduate, participated in the first class. She is pursuing a career in Web design, taking online courses and also holding down a full-time job. The class offered Woods a safe place to express her concerns. Her participation opened up her eyes. 'The environment I'm in I want to change,' said Woods. 'I want to be with people who will back me up. It was nice being around people who support me. Everyone respected each other.'
The class also changed Wood's perspective in general. 'I realized I wouldn't be the person I am today if I didn't go through the dark stages in my life,' said Woods. 'Maybe my life isn't as bad as I thought it was.'
The group also did role-playing and made mandalas. 'It's a way for them to look at who they are and who they want to become,' said Diana Nish. 'We did a lot of hands-on which was really fun. I'm a firm believer in hands-on.'
Nish also encouraged participants to take a look at their attitudes. 'They can take you places or keep you in a rut,' said Nish. 'To some, this may seem like a small thing, but for a youth raised in an environment where positive attitude isn't present, and learning to move forward - this is huge.'
According to Nish, boys aren't being left out and neither are younger students. 'For right now, the Girls' Circle is very much needed.' Nish is looking for ways to find funding for lower age levels and also looking at ways to go into the schools.
Log on to www.girlscircle.com for more information. A new 12-week class, 'Paths to the Future' will be starting for girls aged 12 and over. For questions about classes offered at MTC or to register for a class, call 503-397-6495.