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Girls empowering girls

It can be tough being a girl in high school, but it can be even harder for girls who may have special needs or those girls who don't have any positive influences in their lives.

As a way to help those girls, in the fall Woodbury High School launched a Just for Girls group, which allowed general education students to mentor students with special needs.

"There were a couple girls who needed a positive female role model and I wanted to help," group adviser and family and consumer science (FACS) teacher Hollie Radanke said, "but I thought peers would be a lot more helpful, rather than just me, because they could relate."

Just for Girls, which included five general education students and eight special education students, met once a month.

"I think it was good for all of us too," WHS sophomore Mairin Barrett said. "It was kind of like a therapy group."

Just for Girls

During the monthly group, the girls would come together to talk about anything and everything — boys, clothes, school and so much more.

"We kind of just talked about girl things, I guess," WHS junior Jenna Penticoff said.

The group also provided opportunity for the girls to ask any questions they had.

"I wanted a safe space where they could ask the embarrassing questions," Radanke said.

Since the group was made up of all girls, a lot of barriers came down.

"Since it was girls helping girls it made it easier to ask the questions," Barrett said. "It makes them feel not alone since they know that they're not the only one dealing with problems."

In addition to talking, Just for Girls also incorporated activities and lessons that touched on key issues such as empowerment, stress management, friendships and self-esteem.

Several activities included saying positive things about one another as well as themselves.

Just for Girls held its final meeting of the school year on May 18, which included every girl receiving a bracelet that read: "She believed she could so she did."

"By the end of the year they all felt like they belonged here," group adviser Jessica Grochowski said.

More to come

Just for Girls truly was a success, Radanke said, because not only did the special education girls learn some valuable lessons, but it really opened up the lines of communications.

"It was about being willing to be vulnerable," Radanke said, "because sometimes girls, and people in general, don't know how to ask if you're OK."

In addition to seeing a change in the girls' self-esteem, Radanke has also seen a change socially now that the special education girls have more girls to call friends.

Just for Girls proved to be so successful this year that the group is ready to continue next year.

"It was maybe designed more for the special needs girls," Penticoff said, "but we all got something out of it because it helped all of us become better, nicer people."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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