STOW — The Ruling Our Experience or ROX received a boost in donations after a breakfast last month at Stow City Council Chambers with $4,165 donated to the program.
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 this year.
Kimpton school guidance counselor Bobbi Angely hosted the breakfast with Mayor John Pribonic.
"It was a phenomenal turnout with about 50 people," Angely said. "Everybody was really supportive and brainstormed afterward."
The meeting was planned for an hour but the dialogue continued longer, Pribonic said.
"It wasn’t planned but there was so much energy in the room, we had people introduce themselves, what they did, and why it was important to them," Pribonic said. "They stayed to share ideas."
Guests represented a wide range of occupations from Stow Municipal Court Judge Lisa Coates to librarians, business leaders, doctors, educators and more, he said.
"It was a good dynamic and well-rounded group," Pribonic said.
"We planned on an hour and some stayed another hour offering support, ideas and use of their space," Angely said. "They asked about being guest speakers for us. It was overwhelming support."
Many of the women said they wish there had been a similar program when they were in school or their daughters were in school and hope it is in place for their daughters and granddaughters, Pribonic said.
Five women who attended wanted to make sure the program moved forward and create an action plan, he said. A meeting was planned with the five women inviting others who want to offer ideas or hear more about the program. They will make plans to reach out to the community and reach the $10,000 goal.
"Now we have a link between the schools and the community," Angely said. "We would love for more people to come and hope more donations continue to come in."
Angely said they do not want any girl excluded for financial reasons. This year was the pilot program and several girls have asked to be part of the group next year.
"The teachers have seen positive changes in the girls who have participated and an increase of awareness," Angely said. "I think it will have a powerful impact. We want to raise confident girls who are willing to speak their minds."
Beginning in the fifth grade, studies have shown 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.
Girls need confidence to be successful so they will share their opinions, trust in themselves and others and be brave leaders of tomorrow, said Susan Walker, economic development specialist.
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.
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.
Checks can be made to the Stow-Munroe Falls School District with "ROX" in the memo line.
More information is at www.rulingourexperiences.org
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.