Monday, April 29, 2013

Angela Linton's (club O mentor) winning essay - The Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award

I serve as a mentor for elementary and middle school girls with Club Ophelia ( Club Ophelia is a ten-week, nationally recognized program created by Dr. Cheryl Dellasega in which high school girls are trained to educate younger girls about relational aggression (RA) using stories that illustrate female bullying. Relational aggression is the use of relationships to hurt others. Girl to girl aggression most often occurs with words, expressions, and gestures, rather than physical actions. Some examples of RA are: gossiping, exclusion, manipulation, eye rolling, and teasing. Through instant messaging, e-mails, and website postings, the computer is another way the girls use RA to hurt each other. The program teaches the girls how to relate the information on relational aggression to their own lives by examining the relationships they have or want to develop, looking at what makes someone a friend, and discussing what qualities each girl brings into her relationship. This program is designed to provide girls with tools to build helpful, rather than hurtful relationships with other girls and be a better friend whether they are the aggressor (bully), the victim, or the bystander. Activities include arts and craft projects, role playing, and team building activities which encourage the girls to learn more about themselves and others. We remind the girls that there are always choices in any situation and are asked to identify alternatives they would feel comfortable using in bullying situations. At the end of the ten week program, the girls are asked to integrate what they have learned into their lives and think about how they could help another girl who is a victim or bully. Bullying is an epidemic in this country and young girls should not be fearful of their peers. My goal is to serve as a role model for younger girls in the community hoping that they can become confident and strong enough to help end bullying.

My initial inspiration for serving as a mentor was the ability to work with young girls to help shape them into great people, educate others, and to bring awareness to this crisis and to stop it. I was recognized by my teachers and guidance counselor for my leadership qualities and was asked to become involved with Club Ophelia. I have been a mentor for Club Ophelia since 2010, with the most recent sessions occurring for ten weeks each, beginning January 2012, May 2012, July 2012, and one at the present. The meetings allow the girls to have a safe place to discuss any issues they may be dealing with. The most difficult part of being a mentor is listening to the stories of these young girls, knowing that these relationship issues are occurring and often at times, steps are not taken to change the situation. The Club Ophelia participants learn the value of respect for themselves, and others, and all girls knew they were accepted and included throughout the activities. I would also like to think that the girls became better people with respect for others. This activity continues year-round with different age groups throughout the year.

I have acquired more patience and leadership skills by serving as a role model and volunteer for this program. I am proud of myself because I believe my service has made a difference in their lives and they will continue to practice and share what they have learned. Often, participants of Club Ophelia are asked to return as mentors when they are in high school. I hope one day the girls will remember seeing how much fun I had at the meetings and they will aspire to do the same. I enjoyed seeing the smiles and sense of accomplishment in the girls' faces each week. For other young girls, I would advocate to them to participate in volunteer activities that bring them joy and make a positive, lasting impression.

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