An interview with Iris and Katie about clubGEN

Contributed by: Elena Carey

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Iris, who is a clubGEN girl, and her mom, Katie, spoke with us about their experiences with GEN, leaving us in awe of their thoughtfulness. Thank you, Iris and Katie!

 

Iris:

What do you is the best part about clubGEN?

Well, I like our conversations and the creativity and how creative the ideas are.

 

What creative projects have you worked on?

Right now, we’re working on stop-motion animation on how to de-stress. We’re using little supplies like pipe cleaners and clay and stuff like that.

 

What do like working on most in group?

I like doing art. I like artistic things and very, very creative things. I like how you get to express your thoughts a lot.

 

How does group help girls?

It helps them build their courage in how they can be stronger and better at learning and building more confidence.

 

Can you give me an example of how group does those things?

We’ve been talking about how boys think of girls and sometimes they don’t think of them as the greatest. But also sometimes they do. We’re talking about stereotypes, which are when you think of a girl, you think of pink, or when you think of a boy, you think of blue and sports. So when you think of girls, you think of make-up and hair and stuff like that.

 

What do you think about stereotypes?

Some are good and some are bad. It depends.

 

What would you say to girls who aren’t sure about joining group?

I would say you should join because it’s so amazing and artistic and creative and wonderful! I love the social things that they do for girls.

 

What is it like with your group leader, Alex, and the volunteers?

I like them a lot. I think they’re very funny and nice and very, very easy to talk to.

 

What do they teach you?

It’s mostly how to build confidence and courage. How feelings and thoughts and emotions are really special and how building courage is a really, really important skill.

 

Have you ever struggled with something and being a part of group helped you?

I really like going to group. I would wake up in the morning and say “oh, GEN’s today!” And I’d get straight out of bed and say “woo, clubGEN’s today!” I really like to go there at the end of the day. I like talking to a lot of the girls in the group and it helps build social skills.

 

Do you feel like being part of clubGEN has changed you or affected your life?

I’m really excited and I think of it almost like it’s a weekend.

 

Do you feel like you’ve built relationships with people in clubGEN?

I definitely like talking to the girls in my club.

 

Is there anything else you want to share about your experience with clubGEN?

I like doing arts and crafts and things with pipe cleaners and writing. I like talking. I like doing check-in. I wonder at the end of the day what could be my sun and clouds. And I come up with it and then share it at clubGEN.

 

Katie:

What do you value about clubGEN?

I think club leaders are really understanding about what girls need and about the unique challenges of girls in these age groups.  As a parent, I see my own kids going through things. But I’m also a teacher and I see girls going through things that were the same challenges I went through. Anything we can do to help girls with those hard times, because they’re some of the hardest times in life. Reflecting on my experience, as you’re approaching puberty, while you’re in it – adolescence – those are really pivotal times in life for developing a strong sense of self-esteem or, if not, it can really set you back. You can suffer for a while if you don’t develop some tools to help you deal with the stresses of life in that period. It’s really so good to have these resources to help our kids.

 

The other good things is that it gives this unbiased, but really appreciative, neutral format for girls to be able to express themselves. The group leaders are totally there to support the girls and appreciate them and they understand that each girl is unique. It gives the girls an opportunity to be really honest, open, and to explore some things that they might not actually have had other opportunities to discuss. It’s super important for girls to have people who they can talk to and who can ask them good questions. It’s a good opportunity for girls to learn, explore, and make connections.

 

What do you like most about Iris being involved with clubGEN?

It’s an opportunity for Iris to meet other kids and for people to expose her to other things that I might not think of to expose her to. Things that as parents with the best of intentions, we don’t remember to bring up. They club leaders are great people with the girls’ best interests in mind.

 

Why are GEN programs important? Why have you chosen to enroll Iris in clubGEN?

They’re important because girls from all backgrounds can be involved. Not all parents that I know have time and resources to help their daughter with their self-esteem development. Providing girls access to people who can help develop their skills, independence, and self-esteem at this vital point in their lives is wonderful. GEN is shaping the adults of tomorrow. We need to take time now with kids because in the blink of an eye they’re going to be the people who are running who our world. Investing time, care, and effort in girls will pay off. We see so much evidence in our society of people who might not have had really strong development of self-esteem in crucial periods of their development.

 

Also, it’s so important for us to help kids with their interpersonal skills, to consider the feelings of others, and be more cognizant of the ways we work with others. The more we can impart a message of kindness and acceptance of others and their unique differences, the more harmonious we will be as a society in the future.

 

What would your advice be to other parents who are considering enrolling their daughter in a GEN program?

I just can’t see why you wouldn’t want to do it. It’s an opportunity for your child to have a really healthy environment in which to grow and further develop, socially and emotionally. And they enjoy doing it. There are so many serious subjects that are hard to know how to address as a parent and it’s easy to not know you need to address certain subjects. GEN has a really well-rounded approach. It’s research-based. They know what they’re doing. They’ve created a program to target certain areas of social-emotional development for young girls. It’s a tremendous resources and I would encourage other parents to take advantage of it. Talking to girls about scenarios they may experience and tools they can use in those scenarios is priceless.

 

What would you say to people consider providing a scholarship to a girl in one of GEN’s programs?

I’m going to speak from the perspective of teacher. I know there are so many kids that would benefit so much from this. I have so many girls that I’ve taught and if somebody could’ve stepped in and given them that extra boost, it would’ve really altered the course of things. So many kids I’ve seen there are amazing difficulties in their lives and I think of what they’ve already been through at 4th or 5th grade and I can’t imagine their world. There’s such a great need out there. These are just lovely little people who are kind and wonderful, but have chaos all around them. It would be such a wonderful thing to provide more of these kind, creative, wonderful people some more tools to be able to manage the stresses in their lives, because there are many, many stresses.

 

How have you seen Iris be affected by her time in clubGEN?

Well, she clearly enjoys it as she expressed. You cannot take that for granted as a parent. Those are the more overt things you would notice. She’s built some really good relationships with her peers in the group and it’s a diverse group, which is great. The group leaders have been really supportive of Iris and it’s been really great for her self-esteem, which is wonderful. The group leaders have brought up other perspectives that she has really taken to heart and that has impacted her relationships and experiences. So she has been able to connect to what she’s learned in GEN as she’s experienced new things. It’s bolstering her ability to process new experiences.

 

I remember Iris talking about Career Week and her experience with women in a variety of career fields. She said she felt like they were supportive of her and her interests. I also remember that the leaders were giving them tools to deal with gossip. Some of the strategies that were relayed to me were really brilliant like they have this respectful way of talking about other people by naming them fruit names. That’s such a great idea and it reminds them that simple things like gossip are high impact. It brings an awareness so that they can proactively prevent negative talk, gossip, and bullying — and then evade some of the trouble that is inherent in that stage in life.

Felicia Gonzalez