Em­pow­er­ing girls, one day at a time

Capi­tol Heights E.S. holds first-ever Girls Em­pow­er­ment Day

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­news.com

Pink bal­loons, multi-col­ored pa­per mache flow­ers, hang­ing but­ter­fly mo­biles and a room full of loud screams and cheers echo­ing through­out the cafe­te­ria set the mood for Capi­tol Heights Ele­men­tary School’s first-ever Girls Em­pow­er­ment Day on April 29.

“Girls Em­pow­er­ment Day is a day we want to in­spire and en­gage our young girls and to know that they can be and do any­thing they want in this life,” said Nina Lat­ti­more, the school’s prin­ci­pal. “We de­cided to have this event based upon [the] Men Make a Dif­fer­ence Day [pro­gram],

which is spon­sored by our county. We want to also give our girls a chance to meet and take part in ac­tiv­i­ties that re­flect ca­reers that they can en­joy in their fu­ture.”

The event kicked off with an em­pow­er­ment sem­i­nar fea­tur­ing Miss Mary­land Pre-Teen 2015, Brooke Naidu, Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools (PGCPS) Area 1 As­so­ci­ate Su­per­in­ten­dent Denise Greene and PGCPS spokes­woman Sher­rie John­son, who spoke in the af­ter­noon ses­sion.

John­son spoke to the young girls about fol­low­ing their pas­sion and tak­ing ad­van­tage of good op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause they are the fu­ture. John­son said it’s im­por­tant for her, as a spokes­woman, to not only of­fer words of en­cour­age­ment and ad­vice, but also set a good ex­am­ple for them.

“It’s im­por­tant to em­power young girls to en­cour­age them to fol­low their dreams. They need to be­lieve in them­selves and know that they can do any­thing they put their mind to,” John­son said in an email. “In life, you may hear a num­ber of no an­swers but you have to per­se­vere un­til you hear a yes an­swer. These young girls are wise be­yond their years.”

Naidu, 13, spoke about con­fi­dence and how young girls should stay true to them­selves. While recit­ing her speech called “Enough,” for which Naidu placed 2nd run­ner-up in the na­tional spokesmodel com- pe­ti­tion and won first place at state level, Naidu said about 71 per­cent of young girls to­day are faced with so­ci­etal pres­sures and suf­fer­ing from eat­ing dis­or­ders, anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

Naidu stressed the im­por­tance of help­ing and in­spir­ing girls to look deep inside them­selves and find their in­ner voice.

“Why is it that ev­ery girl in our so­ci­ety seems to suf­fer from low self-esteem at some point dur­ing her life, feel­ing that she does not mea­sure up, that she’s not pretty enough, smart enough, good enough or just plain enough,” said Naidu as she re­cited her speech with great pas­sion. “Many be­lieve girls to­day have an in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult time with de­vel­op­ing and main­tain­ing high self-esteem due to nu­mer­ous fac­tors such as me­dia and their peers. … We need to teach girls, at a very young age prefer­ably be­fore school starts, to find their in­ner voice, the one that will guide them on a path to suc­cess and com­fort­a­bil­ity. When we teach a young girl to have a re­la­tion­ship with her­self, it will al­low her to be con­fi­dent and se­cure. It will teach her to trust her in­ner voice.”

Naidu — who at­tends Glenelg Coun­try School in El­li­cott City — said em­pow­er­ing young girls is not only an amaz­ing feel­ing, but also an obli­ga­tion she sees fit as a role model.

“To think that all of these young girls are go­ing to be sit­ting in here, look­ing up to me as a role model makes me feel so great about my­self,” Naidu said in an in­ter­view. “It makes me feel like I have reached out on a re­lat­able and ap­proach­able level to these young girls and that’s how I want to be. … When peo­ple need me, I want to be there for them and through this, I will be able to do that and I’m very, very ex­cited.”

Af­ter the sem­i­nar, stu­dents were es­corted to dif­fer­ent rooms where they par­tic­i­pated in hands-on ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing a dessert-mak­ing work­shop, de­sign­ing vi­sion boards, writ­ing po­ems, us­ing or­di­nary ma­te­ri­als to make sci­en­tific de­signs and pre­par­ing plant beds to put in the school’s gar­den.

Capi­tol Heights stu­dent Am­ber Ware, 11, led the Bake Like a Diva work­shop, which is named af­ter her bak­ing show she cre­ated and hosts on YouTube. Ware spoke to her peers about bak­ing with style and mak­ing de­li­cious desserts that ev­ery­one can en­joy.

“I wanted to do it be­cause I wanted to show peo­ple that they could bake stuff and they could en­joy them­selves with bak­ing and just ex­press them­selves,” Ware said. “If I help young girls, it’s help­ing me be­cause I’m mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in their lives. I’m help­ing them go to a pos­i­tive route, not a neg­a­tive route. I’m just help­ing them be­come bet­ter.”

When it comes to help­ing young girls ex­press them­selves, the “Our Words Have Power” work­shop was de­signed to paint a pos­i­tive pic­ture of one’s fu­ture us­ing im­ages and words cut out from mag­a­zines.

Third-grade stu­dent Rayna Ser­mon, 8, cre­ated an eclec­tic vi­sion board filled with im­ages of her favorite ac­tiv­i­ties like danc­ing, singing, cook­ing, cre­at­ing art, solv­ing math prob­lems and read­ing books. Ser­mon said par­tic­i­pat­ing in the work­shop helped her re­al­ize there’s more to em­pow­er­ment than meets the eye.

“It’s in­spir­ing to have dif­fer­ent peo­ple on a vi­sion board, to be a fun per­son and to have an ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Ser­mon. “I think that [Girls Em­pow­er­ment Day] is a day that all girls should have and ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing be­cause it’s like a day that girls just like to have fun.”

With Mother’s Day right around the cor­ner, Lat­ti­more said it couldn’t have been a more fit­ting time to have a day ded­i­cated to rec­og­niz­ing and em­pow­er­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of young women.

“The girls al­ways asked about some­thing for them and we felt that our girls needed to be em­pow­ered too. So we thought around Mother’s Day time, spring would be per­fect for this event. This is our first one and we’re go­ing to keep do­ing it,” said Lat­ti­more.

STAFF PHOTOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Capi­tol Heights Ele­men­tary stu­dent Am­ber Ware, top right, smiles as she watches her peers en­joy her “Bake Like a Diva” work­shop. Ware, 11, is the cre­ator and host of her own show on YouTube.

Stu­dents pre­pare plant beds with top soil to place in the school’s front gar­den.

Capi­tol Heights Ele­men­tary Prin­ci­pal Nina Lat­ti­more, far right, pulls out her phone to snap a photo as she ob­serves stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in the “Our Words Have Power” work­shop. Stu­dents had the choice of writ­ing a poem or mak­ing a vi­sion board.

STAFF PHOTOS BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Miss Mary­land Pre-Teen 2015 Brooke Naidu, 13, stands on­stage as she speaks to young girls at Capi­tol Heights Ele­men­tary School dur­ing the school’s first-ever Girls Em­pow­er­ment Day on April 29 in Capi­tol Heights. Naidu, who at­tends Glenelg Coun­try...

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