Maddie Grosland ’15, Cannon Falls, Minn., and Maddie Johnson ’15, Eagan, Minn., wanted to help improve body image, self-esteem and relationships among middle school girls. To do so, they started their own student organization, Girls in Real Life.
The new organization facilitates mentoring relationships between college students and young women at Horizon Middle School in Moorhead.
“It's a nice feeling to think that we are helping girls get through the types of things that we all dealt with (at that age),” Grosland says.
Members of the group lead discussions with the girls on different topics each week. A curriculum committee designs the lesson plans. Topics have ranged from “Strong Women” and “Dreaming Big” to “Handling Stress” and “Healthy Body Image,” Grosland says.
They also talk about a Super Cool Lady – or SCL – like Sally Ride. In response, the Horizon students started a journal featuring all the women they have talked about.
“Some have written a page on each of the women. It’s really cool to see them that committed,” Johnson says.
Grosland has seen the impact talking about strong women has on the middle school students, too. Last year, she led a discussion during Black History Month. The conversation soon strayed to what the girls were learning in school.
“One of the girls turned to me and said, ‘Maddie, Rosa Parks was a strong woman, wasn't she? Because she got arrested, but it didn't matter, because she was standing up for what she believed in!’ I was so proud,” Grosland says.
The idea for the group sprung up two years ago.
“I know growing up, I had a lot of trouble with self-esteem,” Grosland says. “It wasn't really until the end of high school and beginning of college that I realized life is so much better when you can be yourself.”
Johnson had her own motivation as well. Her best friend in high school had an eating disorder. Her friend recovered but still struggles. When this friend went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she started an organization that helps inner-city middle school students with self-esteem and body image.
Johnson wanted to do something similar.
“I thought, ‘this is something I want to do in the Fargo-Moorhead area and I don’t see why I can’t,’” Johnson says.
Johnson also worked as a nurse aid in an eating disorder unit at Sanford Health in Fargo. During her shifts, she watched girls come in struggling with the eating disorder and watched them overcome it.
“I like to think the organization is helpful for students or, at least, they have more of a supportive environment than a middle school can be sometimes,” Johnson says.