Together, Forward

Our mission is to foster individuality and empower girls

Background Information

Middle school is a critical time in one’s life. It is when young girls and boys make friends, invest in their interest, and shape their lives for the future. However, there is a current issue where the girls start to lose their sense of individuality at this time. There is a societal pressure to conform and fit in. The stigma is that different is bad and the same is “cool.”  Because of this, all kids begin to act like their friends and copy what the other kids did before them. However, this issue disproportionately hinders girls. While 30% of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors , this number jumps to 50% for girls (Park Nicollet Melrose Center). 74% of girls say they feel pressure to please everyone (Girls Inc, The Supergirl Dilemma), and 53% of girls in American at age 13 are “unhappy with their bodies” (National Institute on Media and the Family). Additionally, girls move away from their interests such as STEM, music, art and sports because they think they will be outcasted if they continue doing what they enjoy. A study by Microsoft found that girls interest in STEM peaks at age 11 but quickly drops off at age 15. Only 3% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are women (CNN Money), showing that these problems in middle school do nothing to help set up the future for these girls. We need to stop the problem before it gets worse. To stop this issue as it is starting, juniors signed on to mentor eighth grade girls. This both gave the middle schoolers a link to the high school for the following year, but it empowers them to pursue their passions.

“Our mission is to foster individuality and empower girls.” – Annelise Lemaire


Implementation of the Project

To implement this CLP, Together, Forward first needed to be approved by the school.

“This took a lot of work because the process involves 4 levels of approval, and that is just for the high school!” – Annelise Lemaire

There is then a secondary approval process with the middle school principal. This process is necessary so that the program can be conducted on school property and advertised during class time.

Once the club was established, there was a selection process for mentors. These junior filled out an interest form to begin. Next, there was an informal interview process to guarantee that each juniors would give their mentee adequate attention and be committed to the club. This process faced some challenges as juniors kept dropping out and more were added throughout, therefore, it took months to solidify a team. Once this team was set, a group began to recruit eighth grade girls. Again, this aspect faced its own challenges as the eighth graders didn’t know what this mentor program was, so they were hesitant to sign up. After countless communications, the participants were finally confirmed.

Finally, there was a process of matching mentors to middle schoolers with similar interests. Additionally, there was a training session for the mentors to further coach them on the outline of the meetings and discuss how to minimize a risk of putting them in unsafe situations.

Results of the Project

The first round of this project had 12 juniors and 8 eighth graders. They met every other week for about an hour, and the juniors had periodic check-ins to discuss their progress with the eighth graders.  At the end of the semester, there was a big get together to celebrate the successes of the program. There is continued supported from administrations and the school will become much more connected next year.

“All of the girls have been incredibly engaged, and keep seeking ways to further the program.” – Annelise Lemaire

What’s Next?

While this first year was a smaller group, it was a controlled trial run, and the hope is to expand next year.  Annelise will continue to manage the program next year, then hand it off to an underclassman to continue it once she graduates.  Annelise hopes to continue seeking ways to pass on her knowledge and leadership skills to younger kids.

“Mentoring has proven to be a fulfilling practice that is beneficial to both parties involved.” – Annelise Lemaire

Throughout this process, Annelise learned the challenges in coordinating large groups of people; to be patient, yet persistent. These skills will be directly applicable to the second round of mentors next year, and will help guide her service work throughout her life.