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Blugold promotes female empowerment at local DeLong Middle School

| Lucy Grogan-Ripp

Teaming, wellness, self-esteem, [AND] leadership; these are the principles that form the basic foundation of Ms. Adventure Girls, a mentor program enacted at Delong Middle School in Eau Claire. The program works to promote these core principles among middle school girls by pairing college-aged female mentors with female DeLong students.

Among the many UW-Eau Claire students who have served as mentors through the program is Erin O’brien, a junior secondary education major. After learning about the opportunity through her professor, Dr. Deb Pattee, Erin has been serving as a mentor at DeLong Middle School since September of 2017.

Erin’s main goal as a mentor through Ms. Adventure Girls has been to, “encourage self-esteem and build things such as community, teamwork, and leadership skills amongst the girls.”

“I meet up with my buddies once a week for half an hour,” Erin explained, “I eat lunch with the girls, and we discuss things like school, goal-setting, and hobbies. I facilitate conversation with them, hoping to create a team-like community while promoting positive self-image and wellness.”

Erin’s time spent with her buddies doesn’t begin and end with their 30-minute lunches, however. “Every semester we go on a camping trip. We bring them on a Friday night and do a variety of empowering activities like team-building, crafts, and talking time,” Erin explained. Through this, the girls are able to connect with one another through sharing their stories, anything they might be going through, and offering support.

This year, Erin had the opportunity to drive some of the girls to camp. She noted how well she connected with them on the road trip, and how moving it was to hear them talk about their lives and their passions.

In addition to lunch meetings and camping trips, the girls meet every Wednesday with Dr. Deb Pattee and a student coordinator. Each week, the girls have different lessons, with one of their most recent lessons being on friendship and spreading positivity in the world.

“Each week they learn something new, work on new skills, and engage in team building exercises. At the end of the semester, they will give a presentation to their parents of all that they have learned,” Erin stated.

For Erin, one of the most rewarding aspects of her experience with Ms. Adventure Girls has been the opportunity to witness the strong relationships among the girls and just how well they work together in building each other up.

“The girls have gotten really close with each other.” Erin noted; “I have one sixth grader and three eighth graders, and they all get along so well.”

When asked about what, if any, social or community awareness Ms. Adventure Girls has brought her, Erin highlighted just how much she has learned from her buddies, as well as the rewarding feeling that comes from watching them grow.

“I have learned so much from my buddies,” Erin reflected, “I really do love them. These girls are so much more wise than middle schoolers ever get credit for. The resiliency they have shown is so inspiring, and I know it sounds cheesy, but they are some of the strongest people I know. They have inspired me to be a stronger person because of how strong they are.”

She then went on to say, “I've known them for about 6 months, and they've all grown so much in their leadership and communication skills. They've opened up and been vulnerable in conversation, and I can see them developing their leadership skills and becoming more confident in themselves. They've become a team with each other, and it's fun to witness.”

Through it all, if there’s one aspect of Erin’s project that she will always take with her, it’s this: “The girls come from diverse backgrounds, yet despite any adversity, they will always show strength and resilience.”

Erin’s experience with Ms. Adventure Girls serves as yet another reminder of the importance of service, and the selfless commitment we make as Blugolds to better our community. Blugolds fly together, but we also fly with generations of students to come.