In the News
GIRL POWERby Cortney Casey, C&G Staff Writer on 1/9/2008
STERLING HEIGHTS â�� Growing up comes with questions â�� and Flynn Middle School teachers found themselves fielding many from girls too self-conscious to broach subjects like life, love and health with their mothers.
The revelation prompted Jane Rutkelis and fellow Flynn staff members Lauren Delicato, Diana Bendert, Alison Duprey, Katia McKenzie and Lisa Stabile to launch a pair of intramural clubs called Just for Girls to provide a comfortable, informative environment for the school's pre-teen and teenage females.
"It's getting girls together so they can build friendships and have a safe place to talk about things," said Bendert.
The sixth-grade club, Glamour Us Girls, encompasses about 40 students, while the seventh- and eighth-grade program, Girls 101, boasts a roster of about 65 students. The groups meet after school on alternate Wednesdays.
The program kicked off in October and has been going strong since. Rutkelis said she plans to reopen enrollment for a single week, Jan. 7â��11, to give students another chance to get involved.
Based on the initial popularity of the clubs, "he enrollment will probably jump," she said.
Past sessions have focused on 'everything from nutrition to female issues to hair to fitness,' said Rutkelis. Students have learned about healthy eating and exercise, practiced yoga, and discussed topics like careers, etiquette, female development and women's health issues. They've also launched community service initiatives, such as collecting toys for Turning Point.
"It really brings them together as girls, as women of the future," said Rutkelis.
Sometimes there's no better self-esteem booster than a little pampering. The seventh- and eighth-grade girls recently received manicures from stylists-in-training from the Paul Mitchell School, and participants will have a chance to get a facial at an upcoming meeting, said Rutkelis.
Delicato and Rutkelis said the sessions focusing on exercise launched valuable discussions about a healthy body image and avoiding destructive eating patterns like anorexia and bulimia.
"A lot of them were asking, like, 'How do I tighten up this part?"said Delicato. "Our goal ... is to have them be healthy about it."
The clubs also seem to be breaking down cliques, with all of the members mingling and developing new friendships, said Rutkelis.
"The girls are blending," agreed Bendert.
Rutkelis said feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly positive, and Flynn's Booster Club, impressed by the program's positive impact, recently allocated $250 to fund club activities.
Flynn's entire staff â�� from Principal Tom Cassidy to teachers and administrative assistants to custodians â�� has chipped in to make the clubs successful by providing suggestions, support and facilities for meetings, she added. Rutkelis' daughter, Amanda, 17, also assists during the sessions, supplying an older teen perspective.
Seventh-grader Allison Erickson, whose mother, a Mary Kay representative, will be coming in to provide the facials, said she was inspired to join by the range of activities offered.
"I'm not really that big of a girly girl, but it seemed fun," she said. "All of it sounded good."
Erickson said she's learned to care for her body by selecting healthy snacks. She said she also enjoyed doing yoga for the first time: "It was challenging, but it was fun."
Eighth-grader Tanisha Steverson said she was looking for something to occupy her time after school and found the club to be relaxing after a long day of class.
She reflected on discussions about breast cancer and question-and-answer sessions with the adults about "feminine stuff."
"It teaches you a lot of things you may not have known," she said.
Eighth-grader Sara Omairat confessed that she was lured in by the promise of facials.
"Every week, I get so hyper â�� I can't wait for Girls Club,"she gushed.
Meanwhile, the buzz about the girl-centered groups has touched off a movement among another segment of Flynn's population.
"Now the guys want a Boys Club," laughed Omairat.