A program designed to help South Orange and Maplewood girls stand up for themselves and others is standing up for itself — strong and growing in its third season.
Simply enough, the group is called Stand Up Girls. Girls ages 7-10 are invited to join and learn conflict resolution and self-esteem (standing up for themselves), as well as anti-bullying and valuing diversity (standing up for others), and leadership skills and public speaking (standing up as leaders in their community).
The girls come to the Baird once a month with a parent (mom or dad) and spend dedicated time talking, engaging in activities and building a community together. The group is meeting over five Monday nights this spring for its third season. Season four begins in the fall.
Danielle Mann, who herself grew up going to South Orange public schools and is an advertising professional at Hearst and mom of three (the oldest of whom is in the group) started the group last year.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to get a group of my (then 7-year-old) daughter’s friends together with their mom or dad to talk about things that aren’t typically covered in a school day?’ Topics such as cliques and relationships and speaking up for what you believe in,” said Mann.
“The first idea I had was ‘How would you handle this situation…? You walk into the cafeteria and the girls you normally sit with at lunch all of sudden today tell you they don’t want you to sit with them anymore.’ I thought the girls could bounce ideas off each other on ways to handle these types of tricky scenarios — through role-playing or conversation — that are bound to occur.”
She added, “These are important skills for girls throughout their lives, into adulthood. I’m a planner and enjoy putting groups of people together and making introductions so the idea was to get a group of girls together meet in a different girls house each month. There was a great deal of interest even before the first session so I asked the Baird if we could use a room there.”
“The interest has been huge,” said Alex Carter, Maplewood mom, law professor and wife of Maplewood Township Committeeman Greg Lembrich. After Carter ran one of Stand Up Girls’ monthly workshops (on conflict resolution), she signed on as a co-facilitator this year.
“We now have more than 20 families who come every month, and the South Orange schools (South Mountain in particular) have started recommending the group to students and families interested in these issues,” said Carter. Guest speakers, mostly local women and girls who run businesses or have valuable skills (like Claire Garland of Baker Street Yoga), run workshops for the girls.
“Alex connects so well with the girls and we are so lucky to have her leading the group,” said Mann. “She brings an enormous amount of leadership experience that we wouldn’t normally have. It’s so flattering that she has taken such a personal connection with Stand Up Girls.”
Mann said that another reason Stand Up Girls is important to the community is that “these girls will most likely be going to school together all the way through high school. With the added pressure of social media that we didn’t have to deal with as kids, there is an even greater need for face-to-face communication with the girls and the parents.
This group provides our community the chance to meet once and month, and spend quality time together. By bringing in speakers and tailoring the content to real-life situations that are relatable to these girls, it’s a win-win.”
“The community spirit you see in our group is remarkable,” said Carter.
For more information, visit the Stand Up Girls website at https://daniellejmayers.wix.
Season three is fully booked, but Stand Up Girls is taking names for a waitlist in case of cancellations. Season four starts in the fall. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the website.
Photos are from the final session of Season 2, courtesy of Jamie Bloom Meier. Click on any photo to enlarge.