Creating safe spaces for girls where they can grow, thrive, and make meaningful connections is an important focus of the Natomas Unified School District. It’s one of the reasons the district has made an investment to provide mentoring programs that are intentionally focused on the needs of girls. Since the beginning of this school year, the district has partnered with Girls Leadership, a nationally recognized organization, to pilot the Girls LeadHERship Club at Bannon Creek School and Natomas Middle School.
“We decided to start with middle school-aged girls because they are at a time of transition and often need a little more support. With the support of the Girls Leadership team, we are able to provide curriculum and engage in fun activities that address the girl’s needs now and help educate them about what is coming in high school,” said Ekuah Ramsey-Gilbert, Coordinator of Communications and Family Engagement. Gilbert used her experience as a teacher and counselor to gain the girl’s interest to sign up. “I knew that if we wanted to have good participation, we needed to offer a bonus, so we offered dance lessons which ended up being a big hit.” The girls came twice a week for dance lessons and once a week to learn the curriculum. They even had an opportunity to receive a dance lesson from one of the dancers of the Hamilton Broadway cast when the show was in Sacramento.
“It’s been an amazing experience. I had a parent come up to me during our Family Engagement Night to say Thank you for helping her daughter to come out of her shell and to feel better about herself. She noticed a positive change in her behavior and actions and that’s exactly what we want to happen.” During the closing performance, the girls were able to share what they enjoyed most about their time together. One 7th-grader commented, “I love the people here, these are girls that I never knew I would have been friends with, and now we are really friends.” Another shared, “I enjoyed learning how to understand myself more and how to show myself more care.” Additionally, during the Family Engagement Night, families were able to enjoy dinner, learn about their child’s success in the Girls LeadHERship Club, and receive important information about supporting their child’s transition to high school.
This school year, the program is held for 8-weeks in the fall and again in the winter/spring. The goal is for the girls to develop or enhance the following skills:
- learning to connect with their internal voice
- practicing self-care techniques that support their mental health and wellness
- recognizing and setting personal boundaries
- identifying conflict strategies that they were able to use immediately to address problems and issues
There will be brand new sessions available in January at Natomas Middle School and Jefferson K-8 School. Parents at those two schools can expect to receive enrollment information in January.