Girls’ club going strong

Kathleen Martin

#Girl-Talk, a self-esteem group for female Grade 9 and 10 students at Fort Frances High School, has been going on since the fall.
The group focuses on building self-esteem through beauty, fashion, and working through emotions, as well as with having fun.
FFHS teacher Erika Handberg said Grade 10 student McKenna Begin came up with the whole idea.
“McKenna exclaimed, ‘We need to do something,’” Handberg recalled.
Begin brought together four other girls, Alyssa Chiasson, Savannah Chapman, Brielle Byma, and Maddie Sanders—all of whom were very interested in getting involved.
While working as a group, they begin to grasp a better understanding of the day-to-day struggles that occur in the most common of places, whether it is at home, school, or around the neighborhood.
Knowing they are not alone makes the difference.
“Originally, they came to me because of online bullying,” noted Handberg.
“I thought this was a really good idea; something I toyed around with when working on an elementary panel,” she added.
Handberg noted Begin has been very proactive and positive.
“McKenna thought that maybe it will solve the problem [of] cyberbullying,” she remarked.
#Girl-Talk has undertaken numerous activities so far, including a Christmas party where the girls played Wii games, as well as baked and decorated cookies.
Just last month, the group welcomed guest speakers, such as fellow student Sydnee McLeod and educational assistant Natasha Shack, who informed the girls about Internet safety.
“We did yoga one week with [guest instructor] Jen Yerxa,” said Handberg.
She believes yoga brought a greater significance to the group because of how it helps with anxiety, anger, frustration, pressure, and anything else that could cause young students to become frightened, embarrassed, or neglected.
This self-esteem group hopes to make a positive impact in the near future by encouraging others to stand up for themselves, or simply take a calm and relaxing breath in times of hardship.
“We were thinking about getting crafty bows for hair and maybe selling the bows to donate money for something, which is what you call philanthropy,” Handberg enthused.
“[The] girls are also curious about having a sleepover at the school sometime in the near future,” she added.
Handberg said future plans for the group include extending an invitation to female students in Grade 8.
“We want to reach out to the kids that may need a group to have a place to go,” she reasoned.
Begin, meanwhile, said a big influence on her has been Renee Martin-Brown, who gives her music lessons and was the founder of the “I Am Awesome (And I Know It!)” retreat for teenage girls, which was held for the first time last September in Nestor Falls.
“She told me what some of the girls had said [at the retreat] and what they were facing,” noted Begin.
“When I heard that, I thought this was really serious,” she added.
“Some of the girls go to this school so I really wanted to help them.”
“New ideas that we have are healthy lifestyles [and] being more active,” Begin said.
“And we have [also] been talking about doing Zumba, which is really fun.”
Begin had a message for other young girls who are facing different obstacles in their lives.
“Be confident. There is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself,” she declared.
“Girls should not care what others think of them as long as they are happy and living their lives,” she reasoned.
“I do not understand how people can benefit from being mean to other people. It just makes me really mad.”
Begin said lots of girls have been coming up to her at lunch and talking about their problems.
“I told them whenever they needed someone to talk to, they could come to me” she remarked.
“Seeing them at lunch together makes me feel good,” added Begin.
“I always wanted to make a difference.”