After reflecting on their own preteen years, two high school students created a club for middle school girls that would instill a sense of confidence and self-worth in their members. The club meets every Wednesday after school and is open to all T. A. Dugger Jr. High School girls. Meetings consist of open discussion, hands-on activities, and kindness challenges for the following week.
"We aspire to reach all groups of girls by giving them a safe space to feel empowered and learn key leadership skills,” said Co-Founder Taylor Long. “Mckenna and I want these girls to support each other in becoming the best versions of themselves and to reach their full potential.”
Middle school is full of new experiences, ideas, and decisions that lay the foundation for high school and beyond. Co-Founders Long and McKenna Kiser said they would have loved to have high school mentors because they might be more relatable.
“We felt like meeting with people closer to their age might be less awkward and more meaningful for them,” said Long. “We want to help them build confidence, and I think if we can start doing that now, then they will know who they are and how to make their own decisions.”
Topics covered in open discussions are included in a syllabus sent home to parents, so they are able to continue those conversations and hopefully open up a line of communication at an age where parents often feel more distant.
Girls in the group say it’s a place where they can have a voice and have fun.
“Like a Girl is a productive way of making us feel more like we matter and like we have our own little club to go to and spend time with girls,” said Jocelynn Cash. “We get to feel more comfortable and be with people that aren’t going to judge us. Mckenna and Taylor are awesome and amazing and make me feel good about myself.”
Another student said, “I’ve learned to walk in the halls without staring at my feet. We have our own thing. I love this group.”
Kiser and Taylor said they remember being this age and trying to deal with lack of confidence and peer pressure. “I know I wanted a mentor when I was that age,” Kiser said.
Their goal is not only for girls to grow personally and socially, but to try new things and to change the way that they see themselves. “We want them to not shy away from leadership positions,” Kiser said. “I know I used to be scared to take those on, and I don’t want them to feel that way or to be afraid of being too – anything.”
The program was organized with a syllabus that addressed different topics each week like bullying, peer pressure, gossip, kindness, self-esteem, healthy behavior on social media, and more. The program is co-advised by faculty at TAD including Counselor Ariel Minnick and teachers Kristin Waite, Rachel Arrowood and Tori Reeves.
“I really like what Taylor and McKenna are doing with this club and how they are shaping the minds of our female students,” said Minnick. “This is a critical age for girls to learn a variety of skills such as self-confidence, resolving issues, empathy, etc. I really like seeing what new lesson and activities are going to be done that will help our girls build those skills and use them as they go through middle school, high school and beyond.”
Like a Girl is a semester-long project in the Bartleby Community Improvement Class. Though it is only scheduled to take place this semester, most projects from last year have been continued by their student leaders. Long and Kiser said they plan to do the same as long as there is student interest.
The program is open to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls at T. A. Dugger Jr. High School, and it meets from 2:50 to 3:30 in the TAD Media Center. There is no cost to participate, and those interested in attending do not need to register in advance.