By Dedra Cordle
During a presentation at the Sept. 28 South-Western City Schools Board of Education meeting, Lauren Pryor and Heather Fairs, counselors at Central Crossing High School, shared a video made by several students.
In this video, nine girls discussed what they had learned by participating in an empowerment program called ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences) and why they feel this program would be valuable to other young women.
Their words were strong, clear and precise.
“The most important thing I learned from ROX is that no girl stands alone,” said Hailey Crawford. “This is important because when I go to a ROX meeting, I know I’m not the only one that has problems and I know I’m not alone.”
“ROX is important for girls my age because it teaches girls how to be independent and how to deal with problems and emotions during hard times,” said Liliana Limon.
“ROX is important for girls my age because they need to learn now before they get older you can have bad stuff happen to you like sexual harassment,” said Kylee Risinger. “The program teaches you how to deal with that and how to support each other.”
It was a powerful message from young women, a group that is often forced to succumb to pressures from peers and a society that tells them how they should look, behave and be.
“Girls face an immense amount of pressure to be a certain way and to look a certain way,” said Pryor, a ROX facilitator.
She shared statistics from the school that showed when ninth grade girls began the 20-week curriculum, 25 percent of them believed that a girl must be thin to feel beautiful.
She said with the prevalence of social media, girls are bombarded with messages that often affect their confidence and value.
But with this program, which began three years ago at Central Crossing, the mindsets of young women at the school are beginning to change.
“After ROX, zero percent of girls endorsed that belief (that a woman must be thin to be beautiful),” Pryor said.
The program, which started as a research study headed by Dr. Lisa Hinkelman at The Ohio State University, is not only there to provide young women with body confidence. It also provides them with the tools to overcome pressure, identify unhealthy relationships, whether they be friendship or romantic partners, and communicate with their friends and family about issues that are bothering them.
Fairs said she has seen how the girls who have participated in ROX have blossomed in the classroom and in life.
“They have more confidence in themselves and they are more willing to take risks,” she said. “They can identify unhealthy relationships and they have learned to be assertive and to stand up for themselves.”
When the program first started at Central Crossing, it only had 15 girls participate but due to more funding from grants such as the South-Western City Schools Educational Foundation, they were able to double those figures for the past two years.
Even though there has been a limited number of girls who have participated in the program, word of mouth has spread at the school and more girls and boys are taking notice.
“That’s the goal,” said Pryor. “For them to share their experiences and help and teach their friends, sisters, aunts and even their mothers about what they have learned.”
Superintendent Dr. Bill Wise praised the program and remarked that it has made a different in the lives of others.
The girls in the video can certainly attest to that statement.
“The most valuable thing I learned from ROX was teaching myself how to be confident,” said Limon. “This is important to me because I didn’t have that confidence before and now I won’t let anyone put me down and I know what I’m capable of.”
She said she wanted more girls to have the opportunity to experience ROX because of its message that they can be anything they want and work anywhere they want.
“Girls can do anything we put our minds to.”
As of today, only Central Crossing and Grove City High School have implemented ROX programs, though training is being done for counselors and teachers at Franklin Heights High School and Westland High School. Brookpark Middle School has also expressed interest in establishing a ROX at that level as well.