Laker Ladies discuss teen joy and anxiety

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Rachel Moss, left, Erin Oh center, and Ama Bender see how fast they can pass the hula hoop around a circle with using their hands.Fueled on Oreos and Goldfish crackers, a group of teen girls gathered in a circle last week in a Lake Oswego Junior High School classroom after school, hopping through a Hula-Hoop they passed between them.

“How about we see how fast we can do it blindfolded?” called out Rachel Moss, a sixth-grader.

A few female students from Lake Oswego High School who cross Country Club Road on Thursdays to visit the junior high girls considered the idea before deeming it as potentially dangerous. After all, the LOHS students are Laker Ladies, striving to serve as positive role models and create a fun — but safe — atmosphere.

Really, being safe, above all, is creating a place where all the students feel like they can say anything on their minds and trust that it won’t get spread around and they won’t be judged. The girls touch on topics including dealing with: the loss of a pet, pressure to succeed, the challenge of competitive sports, rude classmates, irksome siblings and “friend drama.” Even fun stuff can be stressful, such as anxiety over choosing the perfect dress for a formal dance. Although, Grace Peterson, a sixth-grader, is planning REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Hannah Nicklos, senior, left, shares some of her hardest times of the year with Christina Miller, center, junior, and Grace Peterson, sixth grade.

“I have those little sketchbooks called Fashion Angels, and they have little outfits, and I’ve planned what I’m going to wear to my first prom,” Grace said.

LOHS Junior Christina Miller said mostly the group is about lighthearted talks and activities such as an Instagram scavenger hunt and a game involving naming vegetables while keeping your lips over your teeth. Miller said she had at first expected a series of conversations solely centering on awkward girl issues.

Instead, “we were just hanging out and having fun.” Miller said.

Laker Ladies are in a yearlong LOHS social studies elective called Political Action Seminar in which students seek to affect their school and community in a positive and meaningful way. There are nine Laker Ladies, four seniors and five juniors, and the ladies have mentored eight to 25 LOJ students at a time.

Serena Xu, a Laker Lady, said she’s learning how to interact with junior high students.

“I didn’t realize how different it was to be around junior high school students. ... They have a lot more innocence,” said Xu, a junior.

Girl Talk, a national nonprofit organization, inspired an LOHS mother and three daughters to launch the Laker Ladies three years ago under the name “Girl Talk.” The Atlanta-based national group advocates bringing high school and middle school girls together to foster leadership in the former and to provide mentors for the latter.

The local group’s moniker became Laker Ladies this school year because it seemed a little catchier, said Laker Lady Kayla Allen.

Rebecca Cohen, LOJHS counselor, and Amy Espinosa, an LOJHS teacher, were monitoring the Laker Ladies last week. Cohen said the girls are a diverse group yet they respect everyone’s differences and treat each other with respect. They’ve also become close-knit.

“It’s not about a popularity contest, it’s about ...” Cohen began, pausing for a moment.

“Being together,” Espinosa filled in.

“And being women,” Cohen finished.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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