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Wed, Oct. 23

Girl power through girl talk: Full Circle mentoring program to be launched in fall

Courier illustration

Courier illustration

Girls just wanna … talk!

About anything and everything — the best brand of lipstick, the scariest movie, the most strenuous hiking spot, the hottest boy in school, the top date spot, the easiest brownie recipe.

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Anyone wishing to volunteer to be a mentor or to learn more can email Kelly Roberge at kellticcatfish@gmail.com.

If you are a teenage girl, you really need to talk – and you need to do it with other girls.

Maybe the talk starts with the best coffee shop but moves into a talk about how you really feel about your parents’ divorce. Talk might start with an affection for a particular singer just before it segues into why one girl or the other refuses to eat lunch in the school cafeteria.

This brand of girl talk is a key rite of passage — not just the talking but the hearing that can enable the talker and listener to forge conversations that bolster self-esteem and reinforce that they are not alone on their journey to adulthood.

Girl talk, or rather, enabling girls to talk, is what’s behind a new girl mentoring program to be launched in the fall called “Full Circle — Girls Becoming Women.”

Rooted in a model used by the Boys to Men Mentoring Network, Full Circle invites middle and high school girls to join in a circle of between eight and 10 girls facilitated by adult women so they can talk to one another about anything and everything. The adult mentors are simply present to facilitate conversation, but not to judge or dictate the talk that ensues.

Full Circle will officially launch at Northpoint Academy Middle School and Prescott High School at the start of the 2019-20 school year. Founder Kelly Roberge and fellow board members are willing to ex-pand the program once the initial circles are solid and there are adequate volunteer mentors. Each circle will meet once a week for about 45 minutes to an hour during the school day.

At the start, Roberge said, she envisions five or six circles spread between the two schools.

Full Circle just appointed a board of directors and established that its mission is to empower and support girls, families and mentors in programs that “deepen self-awareness and emotional literacy, and foster a sense of community.”

Full Circle’s vision statement is simple: “Resilient girls for a better world.”

“There is something very healing, nourishing and profound about sitting in a circle and talking,” said Roberge, who is married to Boys to Men’ Executive Director Charles Matheus.

Roberge works for the Yavapai County library system and has a master’s degree in counseling psy-chology and art therapy.

For 3 1/2 years, Roberge moderated girls’ circles at Pace Academy.

When she was first asked about doing one, Roberge said she was a little resistant. Then she met the girls.

“I fell in love with the kids,” Roberge said. “Their courage and their hearts are amazing.”

Prescott High School Student Success counselor Jessica Stickel is thrilled about the new program. She is now offering a girls’ circle, and has seen the value it brings to all who participate.

“I just love creating a safe space for girls,” Stickel said of her nine-member circle composed of girls in need of some emotional, social or academic support referred to her by teachers, parents and stu-dents themselves. Circle membership is strictly voluntary.

In starting circles back in 2014 with both boys and girls, Stickel said she found that they all share a need for friendship and to learn their own lessons about compassion, empathy and how to solve problems. Stickel said, the girls often have limited connections prior to joining the circle.

One of Stickel’s circle members, sophomore Sidney Hill, described the group as a “great outlet” that offers her a “sense of belonging.”

“I walk into girls’ group and I know everything will be OK,” Sidney said.

Roberge is clear that the real magic of these circles comes from the girls. The mentors are there to guide the conversations, but they are not there to judge or counsel or even make suggestions. She said the mentors are trained to resist telling their stories so the girls can express their own stories.

“Most of it is getting out of the way so they can talk in a way that’s meaningful to them,” Roberge said. “They are deeper than they think, and smarter than they know, but some have never been told that.”

The circle conversations are confidential, unless there was fear someone would do harm to them-selves or others, Roberge said.

As the circle members often do not know each other well before beginning, Roberge said they often are “surprised to find what they have in common and surprised to find their challenges are shared by so many others.”

The circles strive to create a culture of “respect for everybody,” she said.

The mechanics of the project are simple – girl talk – “but it’s really powerful,” Roberge concluded.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2041.

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