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South Hills

Pleasant Hills Middle School program helps girls 'SHINE'

| Friday, April 20, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

Debbie Zanetti hopes to see girls walking around Pleasant Hills Middle School with their heads held high, exuding confidence, after a night of girl empowerment programs.

She hopes they'll become “just a little kinder, just be a little more accepting and realize it's OK to be different.”

The first GOLD, or Girls Only Leadership Development night, will be held at Pleasant Hills Middle School from 6 to 9 p.m. May 4 for sixth through eighth grade girls.

The all-female run program will include fashion tips for teens, yoga, self-defence, kickboxing, how to navigate friendships, stress and anxiety reduction, what is appropriate for social media, lessons on body image and self-esteem, team building and healthy snack ideas.

“Confidence is a key word we kept coming back to,” said family and consumer science teacher Melissa McCauley, who is chairing the event.

The idea for the girls only event came from Vice Principal Adam Zunic, whose wife led a similar program in the North Hills School District.

That was the end of male involvement.

McCauley formed an all female committee of 10 teachers and support staff at the middle school in January who brainstormed ways to make the program work. They had they more ideas than they could accomplish in just one night.

And even during the night, all of the staff working on the program will be women. That includes teachers, support staff and central administrators.

The committee created a slogan for the evening: “We SHINE like GOLD.” SHINE, stands for what they want the girls to gain from the evening: self-confidence, healthy interactions, independence, natural you and empowerment.

Out of the 310 girls at Pleasant Hills Middle School, 170 signed up for the evening that McCauley said is about having fun and learning at the same time. The event costs $10 per participant.

Donations from local businesses — and even some from far away — poured in to support the event. People even wrote checks to help.

“They just wanted to be a part of what we're doing,” McCauley said.

Each girl in attendance will go to four sessions, all run by women who either are volunteering or district staff. The girls might not be paired with their friends, but that's OK. That's kind of the idea of it.

They'll get T-shirts and bags and the evening will include pizza, drinks and cookies — all to create a fun atmosphere.

The sessions, like fashion for teens, will show how you can dress your ever changing body appropriately, while still expressing yourself, McCauley said.

“We don't all have to wear the same things. That's OK,” said Zanetti, a committee member, and sixth-grade social studies teacher.

The self-defense class will focus on awareness and how to be safe and is taught by the only female officer in the Pleasant Hills police department.

Kickboxing will be taught by a female teacher at Pleasant Hills Middle School.

In one session, students will make bracelets where each bead will represent something about themselves or that they've gone through in their lives, McCauley said.

This allows students to see they're all similar, when they have the same colors on their arm as some of their classmates.

“This gives them a starting point to see you have a lot of similarities,” she said.

A former student will talk about body image and self-esteem and how she was picked on in school, but now is confident and became a bodybuilder.

The variety of programs were geared to offer something every girl might be interested in.

Each program has a hands-on aspect to keep the students engaged.

“This is a fundamental time in their lives. This can be a make or break time for them,” McCauley said. That's why reaching them now is so important, she said.

“They're figuring out who they are at this age,” she said.

And they hope the lessons learned carry with them into the future.

“These are skills they need for life,” McCauley said.

McCauley just hopes the girls all enjoy the evening — and maybe wear their T-shirts to school as an indication they enjoyed the program.

“I want to see connections made and different groups of people talking to each other,” she said.

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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