Inspiration to Women Making Waves
Women Making Waves began as an all girls summer program for middle school girls called “Magic T House”. I had designed an enrichment program for social, emotional, mental and physical health based on my curriculum I used at an all girls school where I was the school counselor. The idea was always to empower girls to become more happy—more complete. This required me to think about my own turbulent time in middle school…
I struggled from the minute I walked through the gates of Hidden Oaks Middle School. I was entering new territory, new terrain, which was very intimidating. The moment where you feel you’ve finally “arrived” is clouded by fear, judgment and insecurities. I think the strongest fear is the reality that you realize you are entering a jungle where you no longer know where you “fit in” or what it even means to fit in. You know you must find where you belong or become the prey of all those around you. There’s a cognitive component to all of this as well—our frontal lobes haven’t developed and are still forming—causing an age that is desperate for independence the inability to understand long term consequences. “How could drinking, smoking, exploring one’s sexuality do anything but make things all a little bit easier”, some might ask after witnessing peers to do it with impunity. We girls also have very swollen amygdala’s during this time causing our judgment to be more emotional and this combined with an incomplete frontal lobe almost makes things impossible. Everything is the “end of the world”, complete with tears, “invisible stage syndrome” (Where it’s “all about me”—event when it’s not), all followed by the desire to just be liked and to feel included. We often try old ways that worked in elementary school—like joining an athletic team or club. But even all of that has changed, or worse we don’t make the cut—causing more feelings of rejection that we can’t take on top of our swollen amygdala where emotions pour out like a water hydrant on a city street ready to put out a large building.
Middle School is a time emotionally, mentally, physically, cognitively and socially where we find new landscapes to roam—and without a lot of proper nurture, guidance, support and of course knowledge, many of us become lost in the jungle.
What was I missing that caused me to really jump into exploring this age? Good judgment and supportive peer leaders around me. I had the nurturing parents who spoke to me, who loved me unconditionally and definitely supported my growth inot a young woman. At this age, it is equally important to have older role models that are your peers…as the saying goes “it takes a village”.
And this leads us to how Women Making Waves was originally outlined and designed as a program to support middle school girls. The idea was making sure the middle school kids received the most attention, being “sandwiched” in where they had high school leaders to emulate—witnessing how “cool” it is to be a leader and inspiring them, while learning to step in their foot prints to work with elementary school girls. Now they were truly learning—building firendships and support of trusted high school girls that also were well trained in knowing when to involve an adult. The real change takes place when the girls are genuinely interested in applying their newfound knowledge and passion to the next generation. The middle school program took off like wild fire and so did the high school program.
I was quickly surrounded by 20-25 of Palm Beach’s finest young leaders. The buy-in was that simple. All driven by compassion, character, integrity and their own life journey to make a difference.
Now I had the girls, and so essentially I already had the program…How would all of us make a difference in our community? How could we learn how to give back the tools, love, support and guidance we had acquired? Just how would we do this and how would reach the greatest population?
After outlining our criteria, application process, constitution and even probationary terms, the girls came and asked about hosting a Suicide Prevention and Healing from Grief and Loss conference. Many of the girls had lost someone dear to them in the past year, including the community’s loved and adored Asher. The loss of Asher was the final straw for these girls and they wanted more education and programming. It was clear it was time for the entire community to join forces and heal their hearts. When the girls first brought this all to me I was hesitant… would the community reject these girls efforts? How would we get a large following on such a sad and dark topic? Would the stigma now come crashing down on the girls while they were trying to do good? (As a matter of fact someone saw our flyer and stated, “Why would anyone attend that—that’s so depressing”). None of these questions stopped the efforts of our leaders. They pushed through because they all knew. They are ahead of all of us adults and know not only what they want, but also what we all need. I gave them the opportunity to help organize the conference; I found five of the best speakers whom I felt were most experienced, and it went flawlessly. The speakers were able to prepare, conduct and follow through on which made all the difference in the world. We had four options of break out sessions including the two specific topics the members asked for, a yoga component, and one parent/adult component. We believe in always offering an adult portion to help support teens in the process and also learn the information they feel they need. The conference was open to girls, boys, professionals, adults—everyone—and everyone came. We had over 130 participants and were hoping to just break 100. You see these girls are on to something special. How could we deny them the voice or platform to be heard? How could we instead push our adult agenda on them? They know where they hurt—they know how they feel—and they most importantly know what they want to learn about, which will empower them to make healthy choices and secure their future.
These girls are trying to accomplish improving their own lives, but also the lives of others around them. They are trying to empower their peers and teach the future generations about the reality of many critical social and emotional health topics, by bringing in true experts. They are trying to create a climate where it is safe to ask for help and the stigma of it being something of someone who is “weak” is removed…
They say it only takes one. Well since August we have had over 30 girls join our cause and our mission...These girls, these leaders, will make a difference in the world around us and it starts here.