Ten girls from Shuksan Middle School make up Girls Group. The group was formed last year by paraeducator Theo Mills and is designed as a mentorship program for girls who may be struggling socially or academically.
“We spend time with people you may not normally hang out with,” said eighth grader Justice Longoria. “We mostly spend time bonding and getting to know each other.”
Along with advisors Theo Mills, Molly Anderson and Kaitlyn Holmgren, the girls meet every other week. The meetings vary but often tackle difficult topics the students are facing. The group has welcomed guest speakers, including Miss Whatcom County, staff from WWU Prevention and Wellness and staff from the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. During the meetings, the girls have discussed healthy behaviors, communications strategies, barriers, building relationships and how to be a good friend.
“I like that we can talk about anything,” said eighth grader Ivon Sanchez. “The group gives us a chance to make friends and meet new people.”
On staff learning Fridays, the girls have gone on field trips including visits to Western Washington University, Bellingham Technical College and the Art Institute of Seattle. These field trips are intended to show the girls opportunities they have after graduation.
On May 15, the girls hosted a Gratitude Dinner to honor people who have impacted their lives. The girls each invited someone to the dinner to show their appreciation. All of the invitees were Bellingham Public Schools staff.
The girls, both seventh and eighth graders, prepared the dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread and Caesar salad. After dinner was served, each girl took a moment to thank their invited guest and share their appreciation. The girls also took a moment to thank Mills, Anderson and Holmgren for leading the group. The girls shared that they felt respected and heard.
In 2014, club advisor Theo Mills was recognized as the Washington State Classified Staff Member of the Year and Principal Jay Jordan said she is one of those people you cannot recognize enough.
“She is phenomenal. She is off the charts,” said Jordan. “Girls Group has set an example for clubs at Shuksan. The girls show how they have fun during after school activities. It’s awesome.”
The Girls Group recently received a donation of $1,000 from the Bellingham Rotary Club. The girls gave half of the money to the Boys Group at Shuksan so they could also benefit from the community support.
“Shuksan, Theo, and I want to give a huge thank you to Communities In Schools of Whatcom County for allowing so much of my work this year to be focused on girls group,” said Molly Anderson, site coordinator for Community In Schools. “Without this partnership, we know this year would not have been as effective, fun and supported. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. My work has been centered around this mission and Theo and I believe that these girls are supported and empowered to persevere in school and achieve their passions.”