By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
OCTOBER 10, 2013 – Fifth-grader Viviana Moubarak sees the new club for girls at Griffith Elementary as a great way to connect with other girls while taking a break from the rigors of the classroom.
“I love being with other girls, and I love having fun,” Viviana said. “I work hard in school.”
Her mother is all for it, too. “I think it’s something positive,” said Sindy Moubarak. “She can share her story and hear other people’s stories.”
Also on the club’s list of planned activities are guest speakers from the community, a father/daughter dance and a mother/daughter food tasting. The girls and adults will also be heading out into the community. On Saturday, those who can make it will gather at BB&T Ballpark for Link Up!, the annual school and community walk in support of ending bullying and of promoting kindness.
On Oct. 3, the club met for the first time, and, in the hour that followed, the girls learned a lot about each other and about the teachers, teachers assistants and other women participating in the club with them. In one game, teacher Angelique Van Eaton read out three facts about an unidentified woman and asked the girls to guess who it was.
Along the way, everyone learned that learned that Principal Debbie Hampton loves teddy bears, that counselor Debby Hendrix wanted to be a detective when she was young and that Van Eaton has some impressive dance moves. The girls heard about riding in hot air balloons, watching The Andy Griffith Show, singing in the shower and flipping through old cookbooks for ideas, and they found out that teacher Dameca Johnson has lived in five states and visited 40 out of the 50 states. “My father was in the military,” she told the girls. “One of the five states was Alaska.”
It was a fun way to get a richer picture of the adults at their school.
To learn more about each other, the girls picked a girl they didn’t already know as a partner. Each interviewed the other to find out their tastes, interests, aspirations and idea of the perfect day. When teacher assistant Lynette Geralds told them that her ideal day would include eating chocolate all day long, the girls’ enthusiastic “oohs” and aahs” led one to suspect that many of the girls would make that part of their ideal day, too.
During the course of the afternoon, more than one woman caught herself saying “boys and girls” to the group and stopped to correct it to “girls.” Not surprisingly, the color pink plays a major role in GO! Club accessories. Each girl received a GO! Club T-shirt and GO! Club shoulder bag to carry the journals and pens and pencils that theys will be using to write down their thoughts in the weeks to come.
“It’s really about finding their voice,” said Cynthia Needham, the school’s media coordinator.
The club has gotten enthusiastic support from everyone at Griffith, Needham said. “It has been so warmly embraced. The whole school is excited about it.”
That support includes men at the school who expressed a willingness to commit to the club. The advisory team decided to have all of the mentors be women and to have men such as assistant principal Thomas Kleean and teacher Tom Radulovic help out with the club meetings and such.
Parents are also strong supporters of the club, Needham said. When the school put out the word that it was organizing the club and scheduled a meeting to provide more information, 100 families showed up. “We see this as a great way to involve families,” Needham said.
More than 60 girls ended up applying for membership. The advisory team wanted a more manageable size for starters, so they invited 30 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to join for now.
The possibility of starting such a club is something that kindergarten teachers Tremona Purvis and Angelique Van Eaton have been talking about since they discovered that both had been pondering ways to have a positive impact on girls at the school in addition to what they were doing in the classroom.
When Hampton came to Griffith as principal in 2012, she strongly supported organizing such a club. One of the goals of the club is to nourish the girls’ self-esteem, Hampton said. “Our children have so many talents and so many gifts but they don’t always believe in themselves or know how to tap into it.”
Van Eaton said that she wants to inspire, motivate and encourage the girls. “My goal is to have a lasting effect in their lives. Whether it’s coming to school every day, helping them through a bully situation, feeling pretty, going to college or knowing that nothing is impossible!” she said. “The adults that are associated with this club want to make a difference in a child's life. Knowing that we have made a difference is all that we need.”
For Purvis, the club offers a way for girls to come to understand that everyone at Griffith cares about them. “The teachers and staff at Griffith Elementary love, care, and respect our students,” Purvis said. “We want them to know they are supported and cherished, and we desire to uplift them in all areas of their lives…We want the girls to value themselves, to know that they each have a voice and what they have to say is important for the world to hear.”