LAKE CITY - Often the only chance middle school students get to interact with youth from other schools is in a competitive environment, such as a sporting event.
For Jill Mims, Calhoun County youth coordinator for Iowa State University Extension in Rockwell City, holding the Oct. 31 Girls Rock Retreat at Opportunity Living was the perfect opportunity for girls in fifth through seventh grades to come together in a noncompetitive way.
"This has been a great way to bring these girls together, Mims said. "They often play each other in sports. Even in 4-H they are competing for ribbons. It's good to give them an to opportunity to get to know each other outside of the competitive environment."
The retreat, themed "little miss independent," taught the girls in attendance how to defend themselves, develop positive self-esteem, and make good life decisions.
"We wanted the girls to know that it is OK to be independent in a tough situation," Mims said.
Iowa State Trooper Matt Eimers taught the girls the simple self-defense tactics of yelling for help, and using their feet and elbows. Other sessions taught by adult mentors were centered around the acronym FOCUS, teaching girls to know the facts, options and consequences; to understand the situation, and stay calm.
"This is all about developing skills for any life choice, Mims said. "We want them to know their options."
In another workshop titled "Chains that Bind," participants wrote down life situations that can be stressful and discussed what they can do to make them less stressful. The chain was broken as the girls came up with positive solutions to the situations.
Brenda Fowler, a Mary Kay Cosmetics consultant gave the girls a lesson on having a good self-image. Each girl had the opportunity to receive a mini spa treatment and manicure.
Eugenia Hanlon, an adult mentor for the event, served as a team leader. Mentors for the event took participants to the different learning sessions and made sure that the girls were comfortable and engaged in activities.
"I really believe in this program," Hanlon said. "It's a nice way to reinforce physical wellness."
High school students also served as mentors for the event. Some of the adult and youth mentors were mother-daughter pairs. Hanlon, whose daughter was a participant at the event, says she looks forward to being able to have her daughter be a mentor next year.
"It's a good thing for the girls," she said. "It really teaches them that positive communication is a good thing that will help them make good decisions in life."
Contact Emilie Nelson at 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org