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Princeton, New Jersey

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Eighth grade students establish Girls Helping Girls organization to build community during the pandemic

We all love the feeling of community and sisterhood, which has brought us all together—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past summer, current eighth grader Kathy Xiang pursued her passion for music and service by participating in a virtual student-led music program based in Boston, where she taught younger children how to play musical instruments. It was through that experience working with children from other states that inspired Kathy to start a club at Stuart to bring the community together during these uncertain times. After noticing the toll the pandemic took on the Stuart community and the resulting cancellation of many service trips, she decided to start Girls Helping Girls to offer girls the opportunity to do service during the pandemic. In establishing GHG, Kathy enlisted the help of friends and classmates who are now inaugural board members. We spoke to Kathy and board members Sasha Hanewald, Allison Lee, and Lola Lopez-Spencer about the process of getting GHG off the ground and the experience of being peer leaders at a time of great need for community togetherness. 

About Girls Helping Girls

Girls Helping Girls is an organization founded by four current eighth grade students at Stuart. The program is designed to help the Stuart community and allows middle school students to participate in weekly meetings and organize events. The organization strives to stimulate self-growth in girls and emphasize the importance of giving back. The club's purpose is to keep the Stuart community connected during the pandemic by practicing the five goals of the Sacred Heart.  

What was the process of getting the organization off the ground? Please talk about Ms. Beyah’s mentorship, how you manage the time with school, and how your friends supported the effort. 

The first step to starting Girls Helping Girls was to have an idea. After I figured out what I wanted to do, I started making a structure of the club. I came up with the idea over the summer, so I had a lot of time to really think about the road map of this club. To support my idea, I made a draft website of the club because it is easier for me to understand when I am explaining it. Throughout the process, I frequently exchanged text messages with a few of my friends, who later became the board members of the club. Once school started, I started communicating with Ms. Beyah [Middle and Upper School English Teacher]. She helped me finalize my plans and brought them to Mr. Missonis for approval. Soon enough, we were planning our first meeting! Lola Lopez-Spencer, one of the board members, helped me create a slideshow for the first meeting. We spent nearly four hours working on it! As the meetings progressed, we started recruiting more members. Soon enough, members were starting to do projects. Ms. Beyah and I met together countless times to brainstorm ideas for projects and to plan future events. Our first event was our virtual Halloween party in which Sasha Hanewald and Alexandra Durish organized. As the club started organizing more events, communication became hard to manage. Allison Lee, our director of communications, plays an important role in the club by managing all the emails and Google Classroom summaries. In short, everyone was very supportive of this project.

Have you experienced any challenges due to COVID? How has the experience been like managing an organization remotely? 

Our organization’s purpose is to help the Stuart community during the pandemic. We strive to connect the community through student-led events. For example, Sasha Hanewald recently organized an event where students can participate in Project Linus, a non-profit organization that donates blankets to children in hospitals, shelters, and service agencies. Although managing the club remotely certainly presents additional challenges, the group of volunteers that we are working with makes the transition from in-person to virtual service seamless.

What have you learned about yourself as a leader? 

Personally, after organizing this club, I learned the skills of organization, communication, and collaboration. Creating an organization from the ground up was harder than I thought it would be. But after organizing this program and putting together multiple events, I can confidently say that I am beginning to master the skill of organization. When working with a large group of students, I’ve learned that communication is key, especially when you are trying to organize multiple events at once. Collaboration is, what I think, the most important piece about this program. For me, it means showcasing people’s strengths while relying on others to create a patchwork of various talents.

What events/programs have you organized? 

So far, we’ve organized virtual parties for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We have also recently collaborated with the Lower School to host virtual holiday storytimes where Middle School students can read or perform for the Lower School students. Additionally, we just organized a program where students can participate in Project Linus to make blankets and donate them to children in need. These are just a few of the projects our members have organized and put together.

What are your future plans? 
In the future, we hope to create stronger bonds between the Lower School and the Middle School. This way, the Lower School students can gain an understanding of how middle school works. Additionally, we hope to establish bonds with the Upper School. We hope this will help Middle School students transition into the Upper School and know what to expect.

Looking into the future, we hope that more members will make use of Girls Helping Girls to promote their own ideas. This may include starting a food drive or fundraiser. We hope to show girls that this is their opportunity to use their passions and help the community. 

Question for the GHG Board: 

What was your interest in getting involved with GHG, and how has the experience been balancing with classes and other commitments?

After being inspired by the many Stuart leadership opportunities, we decided to give Middle School students the opportunity to join a club to benefit the community. Not only does the club give us an opportunity to help the community, but the club serves as a place to practice leadership and put what we learned into action. We can all agree that being a part of the Girls Helping Girls club has given us a stronger sense of responsibility and leadership. Though we all have other academic responsibilities and extra curricular activities, we manage to balance out time well. We are so grateful that we are able to rely on each other in order to plan around our other commitments. Additionally, we are all extremely passionate about the work we do for the club and thoroughly enjoy working together to come up with different ways to help the community.

What have you enjoyed about being on the GHG team? 

We all have enjoyed being on the GHG team for various reasons and causes. We all love the feeling of community and sisterhood, which has brought us all together—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. GHG also gives us the ability to serve not only the Stuart community but others as well, thereby exemplifying Stuart’s Goal 3. GHG has been a great experience and we’re all excited to see where the club goes next!

 

Learn more about Girls Helping Girls through their monthly newsletter. The newsletter will also be posted to the Middle School page. 
 


 

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