STOW – Beginning in the fifth grade, girls don’t think they’re smart enough to obtain their dream job; they don’t want to appear bossy by being in leadership positions; and they don’t speak their minds because they want to be liked.

A Girls Index National Survey of 10,678 girls in the USA shows there is a sharp decline in confidence from fifth to ninth grade and 46 percent of high school girls don't believe they're smart enough for their dream career, including 30 percent of those with a 4.0 GPA.

A crisis of confidence is hurting girls in grades fifth through ninth and modern technology and social media are making it worse, according to the survey.

Girls who spend more than six hours on social media are five times more likely to be sad or depressed every day. They don't have supportive friendships; participate in sports or clubs; trust other girls; or enjoy attending school.

Ruling Our Experience or ROX, a non-profit founded by Dr. Lisa Hinkelman, is a program to develop strong confidence in girls with 10 girls participating at Lakeview Intermediate and 10 girls at Kimpton Middle School in the Stow-Munroe Falls School District this year.

Economic Development Specialist Susan Walker and Guidance Counselor Bobbi Angely have met with Mayor John Pribonic and members of his staff. They are hosting a breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Stow City Council Chambers at Town Hall Feb. 5 and hope those who attend will donate to the ROX program so more girls can participate.

Anyone interested in attending should email Walker at st_walker@smfcsd.org by Jan. 31. Checks can be made to the Stow-Munroe Falls School District with "ROX" in the memo line.

Girls need confidence to be successful so they will share their opinions, trust in themselves and others and be brave leaders of tomorrow, Walker said.

The biggest thing they learn is self-confidence, Walker said. In the first year the girls focus on themselves in the 20-week program, but the alumni girls in the second year meet monthly and focus on reaching out to the community. The girls continue to grow in confidence through high school.

The program costs $150 per sponsorship that includes one new girl, an alumni girl, instructor training and supplies, Walker said. The number of girls who can attend is proportional to the amount of money raised so schools are looking for sponsorships. Approximately 210 girls are in every grade level. The goal is to raise $10,000 to triple the size of the program next year and include girls in 6th, 7th and 8th grades.

The confidence gained through the program allows girls to try new things socially and academically, Walker said. They have the language and confidence to speak up for themselves.

"The girls fight with each other but at the end of the first few meetings, they realize they need each other," Angely said. "They find out what they have in common. The more connections they have in school, the more successful they can be."

They maintain and build their self-confidence so they don’t panic in a dangerous or demeaning situation, she said.

The program teaches girls about self-defense and to trust their instincts in dangerous situations including date rape and sex trafficking, Angely said. They learn to say "no" and assert themselves. 

‘The girls talk to each other and offer ideas and support," Angely said. "This is as real as it gets with a bunch of girls."

Walker says the program allows girls to be who they are and not feel pressured to conform to social media’s idea of femininity or perfection.

It is a science-based/data-based program that adjusts curriculum every two years from feedback from the program, Walker said. The data-driven research creates the lessons the students are involved in during the program.

"The program is good for the girls, school and community," Walker said.

Pribonic said there is an invisible line between the city and schools.

"They are our residents," Pribonic said. "Anything we can to do make our city stronger, we'll support."

He said businesses need a good labor force but someone struggling with "I'm not good enough" can't fill that need.

"The city wants to keep its young people as residents," Pribonic said. "The city wants to be out front. We want to set the standard."

More information is  at www.rulingourexperiences.org

Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or lfreeman@recordpub.com