Peet group providing support for young women

By Lillian Schmid

For the past four years, Peet has been providing an environment for girls in seventh-ninth grades to be themselves — a place that has been lovingly labeled L.E.A.D., standing for Loving Everything About Differences.

This year, more than 100 girls signed up for the Tigertime enrichment.

Rebecca Lins, one of Peet’s two counselors and the teacher of the enrichment, said she knows what it means to her. “[L.E.A.D. is] an opportunity to meet with and empower young women in terms of self-confidence, body image, self-expression, character and leadership development,” she said.

Emma DeWitt and Sabrina Leistikow are ninth graders at Peet who have both been in the group ever since their seventh grade years. They say that they have become better people through the program, and that it was one of the best decisions that they have ever made.

“I think a major thing girls still struggle with is self-confidence, and I don’t think it’s something you can get rid of, but you can definitely improve on it,” DeWitt said.

And this year, they are focusing on just that. The group aims to have a month where they hone in on self confidence. They are aiming to talk about “loving your selfie” and the effects of social media on body image.

“I think society has made us think we have to be a certain cookie cutter way, and we need to break that mold and realize that different is good, unique is great and each person has her own version of healthy,” Lins said.

And Lins has been trying to hit home with the younger girls who just joined L.E.A.D., mostly because there are so many.

Most young women have many reasons for joining. “I first wanted to join L.E.A.D. because I was new to the school, and I really wasn’t sure who I was,” Leistikow said.

But, now that more girls than ever thought possible joined, they had to make some adjustments to try and keep the small group aspect that many girls have grown accustomed to while trying to not cut any girls out of the program.

“Everyone that did it in years before told their friends what a positive experience that it’s been,” Dewitt said.

And this year, it is definitely different, adding another day to meet, and instead of the normal Thursdays, they have added Tuesday too, with a small group of ninth graders meeting on Mondays to plan out the topics that they aim to discuss.

“L.E.A.D. also provides a platform for these [ninth grade] girls to take what they are learning and teach others and empower girls younger than themselves,” Lins said.

Not only is L.E.A.D. a place for girls to learn about themselves, it is also a place for young women to teach them.

“It’s a great group of girls, and it’s amazing to see it expand every month and see the girls grow as people and leaders,” Dewitt said.

So, just as the number of girls in L.E.A.D. grows, if the group achieves it goals, so will the girls in it, as people and as leaders.

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