Each Friday afternoon during the fall, winter, and spring quarters of the 2013-14 academic year, five Kalamazoo College female students have met with 16 Kalamazoo area preteen girls in a mentoring program focused on themes of identity, self-awareness, and self-worth.
Every Friday afternoon. For two hours. No exceptions.
“Consistency is most important in our mentor role,” said Jordan Applebaum Earnest ’14. “The girls know to expect us every Friday for the school year.”
Morgan Mahdavi ’14, Chelsey Shannon ’14, Isabelle Ciaramitaro ’16, Rian Brown ’16, and Jordan are mentors for the SMART Girls program, a collaboration of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo and the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement at K.
The K women meet with the SMART Girls (ages 9-12) at the Boys and Girls Club to discuss themes of identity, self-awareness, and self-worth. Another team of K women also mentors a Teen SMART Girls program at the Club. Both groups of mentors meet regularly on their own to plan lessons for the girls and hold structured reflections about their own mentoring experiences.
“Over the course of the year, our lessons, activities, discussions, and writing exercises with the girls have placed a strong emphasis on healthy relationships, self-care, and emotional processing,” said Jordan. “The girls have come to recognize their own strengths and they have developed more confidence, determination, and positive energy.”
“We have, too,” said Jordan.
Jordan is a Civic Engagement Scholar through the “Mary Jane” Center and serves as director of the SMART Girls program. Hers is a funded position paid through a grant to the Center by former City of Kalamazoo Mayor Caroline Ham. The other K students are volunteers.
During the Friday May 2 downtown Kalamazoo Art Hop, K mentors and SMART Girls will host “Who We Are,” a photographic exhibit meant to demonstrate the inner strengths that each SMART Girl believes she possesses. Each SMART Girl served as art director for her own photo, choosing the props and poses that Georgina Graff ’16 captured with her camera.
“The photos represent who the SMART Girls want to grow up to be,” said Jordan. “They demonstrate qualities such as trustworthiness, intelligence, health, and creativity—all chosen by the girls themselves.”
Kalamazoo College SMART Girls mentors and mentees will host the Art Hop reception from 6-7:30 p.m. at Edison Place, 1350 Portage St., in the Washington Square/Edison neighborhood. The exhibit was curated with the help of Jessica Mancino from the Boys and Girls Club, and funded through a generous grant from Linda DeRose Primavera ’77.