It was two years ago when Principal Tom Jama sounded the alarm about an epidemic of violence involving young girls that was threatening the climate of the school.
Female community leaders saw the revelation as an opportunity to turn to mentoring to bring about change. The first group — Ladies on the Move in the Right Direction — was less organized and more reactionary.
This newest group, which has been meeting weekly at the school with a group of handpicked girls, is less about curbing violence and more in line with cultivating female leaders.
“We want to change behavior, improve school climate and build capacity within in the school,” said program facilitator Regan Phillips. “We are in the early stages and are adding components as needed to help our students.”
As such, Nord is being looked at as a possible new partner. Jama said more meetings are needed to finalize the organization’s involvement, but its willingness to step up is promising.
“I strongly believe that this type of intervention is the best solution in helping our at-risk students become more successful at school and in life,” Jama said in an email. “The key is to get properly trained, caring adults actively involved on a consistent basis. Additionally, the necessary supports (like Nord) must be in place to address the significant needs presented along with getting the families on board and providing them assistance as well.”
YWCA Executive Director Jeanine Donaldson said the group, appropriately named Y Leadership Corp, is a throwback to the teen groups of the 1960s and 1970s that were popular fixtures at YWCAs and YMCAs.
The difference this time is the various social issues the Y Leadership Corp group must tackle.
“In the 20th century, the girls have very different needs,” Donaldson said. “The world they live in is very different than the world was for teens in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Phillips said working with the Nord Center, which can help the adults in the group with messaging and mediation, is not the only community involvement the teens will encounter.
Over Presidents Day weekend, a weekend retreat at Oberlin Inn included a tour of Oberlin College. Future outings will include a session with Judge Gary Bennett and a behind-the-scenes look at the juvenile justice system and work on a community-service project.
“I tell these girls that each and every one of them has talents, gifts and abilities,” Phillips said. “We are helping them pursue their leadership potential by showing them a leader every chance we get. The idea is for them to believe if these ladies in the community can do this and this is what leadership looks like, maybe they can see they can attain this level of success, too.”