Title

S Club: Creating Positive School and Life Experiences For Girls Through Mentorship, Empowerment and Education

Focused Area

Youth-At-Risk in Rural Settings

Relevance to Focused Area

The “S” in S Club stands for Soroptimist, which is an international women’s program, whose mission is to improve the lives of young women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world. In many communities, S Clubs are started in the high schools, as a chance to bring our female youth into the organization, and work improve their lives through education and exposure to issues that young women face. As a middle school counselor, and Soroptimist member, I saw a need for many of the young girls at my school, and thus started a junior S Club as an elective class for the girls at my site. My school is located in a small, rural town of about 11,000 in northern California. The majority of our students come from low-SES backgrounds, primarily from single-parent homes, homes ridden with drugs, and some are homeless, are in foster care, or are in limbo with social services. With so much dysfunction in their home lives, it is difficult to reach our students through typical teaching methods, because their basic personal needs aren’t being met. The girls, especially, suffer from low self-esteem and low self-worth, due to alienation from their family, which then begins to affect their social relationships. In many cases, these girls will lash out at their peers and teachers, shut down completely, and become bitter and resentful. In order for our instructional methods to be effective, the aforementioned issues must be addressed, and that is what my class aims to do.

Primary Strand

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance to Primary Strand

The S Club focuses on improving the lives of my school’s female youth. The class has an emphasis on addressing students’ low-self esteem and self-worth, trying to build up their confidence and self-efficacy. For part of the class, a curriculum is used to specifically work on goal setting, positive identity development and self-esteem. Another curriculum is used to develop the girls’ leadership and communication skills, which helps to build their confidence. I also stress the importance of higher education as an option after high school, and possible careers, because most of these students haven’t had those conversations in their homes, and need to know that they have options. This is part of my efforts to introduce the concept of achievement motivation, as well as continuing the discussion of goal setting. I also bring in female members of the community to come and speak to the students about their programs and causes, and how they contribute to the mission of Soroptimist.

Brief Program Description

Whether you work in an elementary, middle or high school setting, this presentation aims to educate others on working with at-risk female youth, specifically addressing self-esteem, developing leadership and communication skills, and overall working to make sure their personal needs are met, so that they may also reach their academic potential, and develop a positive outlook on life.

Summary

S Club is based on the mission of the Soroptimist women’s organization, to improve the lives of young women and girls. I will be speaking about the junior S Club I run as an elective class at a middle school, for girls in grades 6-8. A great take-home opportunity is something I always begin my class with, which is asking the students to “tell me something good”. Each student is expected to share something that is going well for them, or that they are excited about. It’s a way to start the class on a positive note, and get the students thinking about the silver linings in their seemingly gloomy lives. The class addresses self-esteem and self-worth, confidence and self-efficacy. These issues are attended to through a specific, evidence-based curriculum meant for girls’ groups. The curriculum is based on the concept of RCT, or Relational-Cultural Theory, which is driven by the idea that people build healthy relationships so that they can share their experiences and engage in empathic listening, which helps to prevent psychological conflicts. S Club also focuses on developing the girls’ leadership and communication skills, which acts as another way to boost their confidence, especially if the student is uncomfortable with verbalizing their needs. The curriculum used for this portion of the class comes from an internationally recognized organization specializing in leadership and communication development. This program offers the students a great opportunity to express themselves and open up to their classmates, fostering friendships and trust-building. Something else I do is take the students to tour universities and junior colleges in the surrounding counties. Our county has limited resources for exposing youth to higher education, and because of their low-SES backgrounds, this is their only opportunity to visit a variety of colleges. For many, this will have been their first time leaving our county, too. Showing these students where they can go and what they can do helps to develop their interest and motivation for achievement and setting goals. Finally, each class ends by students offering each other complements, to help boost self-esteem and self-worth.

Evidence

While there is no research specifically on the concept of an S Club, there is, however, plenty of research on a large part of what S Club aims to do, and what I largely focus on in my class, which is the importance of self-esteem and self-worth, and fostering social connections. For example, according to Shechtman (2007), if children suffer from low self-esteem, it is critical that they get help to improve how they think about themselves, which will help build their confidence in their futures. The most effective approaches to helping this age group are those that provide an open and supportive environment in which the children feel safe to self-disclose and try new things. The S Club is a very safe environment for the students, and provides a confidential space if need be, allowing the students to feel more comfortable sharing with their classmates, which boosts their confidence, which helps to improve their self-esteem. The way in which girls, specifically, identify their social support is a protective factor that acts to promote building other protective factors, such as achievement motivation, and interest in positive activities outside of school.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Fiona Weismehl is in her second year as the school counselor at Toddy Thomas Middle School in Fortuna, California. She earned her Masters in Counseling, specializing in School Counseling from the University of San Diego. Fiona’s focus has been on working with at-risk youth, with an emphasis on female youth empowerment. As the school counselor, Fiona runs small counseling groups, provides individual counseling, as well as presents guidance lessons on bullying prevention, friendship-building and communication. The S Club was piloted at Ms. Weismehl’s school under her direction in September 2014, and has nearly doubled in size since it’s commencement.

Start Date

11-5-2015 5:45 PM

End Date

11-5-2015 6:45 PM

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Nov 5th, 5:45 PM Nov 5th, 6:45 PM

S Club: Creating Positive School and Life Experiences For Girls Through Mentorship, Empowerment and Education

Whether you work in an elementary, middle or high school setting, this presentation aims to educate others on working with at-risk female youth, specifically addressing self-esteem, developing leadership and communication skills, and overall working to make sure their personal needs are met, so that they may also reach their academic potential, and develop a positive outlook on life.