Ophelia’s Girls, a group affiliated with the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE), allows female Colgate University students to provide mentorship to struggling female middle and high school students attending Madison Central School.
According to Ophelia’s Girls co-leader junior Annie Langford, the purpose of Ophelia’s Girls is to help young women have a positive view of themselves and of life. The central topics of discussion are typically social and academic pressures.
Members of Ophelia’s Girls travel to Madison Central School every Friday to present lesson plans about prevalent social issues. They spend half an hour with the middle school students and half an hour with the high school students, who attend the sessions during their lunch period.
“The main purpose is to really connect with girls in the local community … and help them with problems that we’ve all been through because it’s sometimes easier to talk to someone closer to your own age than an adult,” Ophelia’s Girls Member junior Taylor Lockridge said.
Lockridge said that each week’s session begins by highlighting a rose flower, bud and thorn, in which the girls state both a highlight and lowlight of their week as well as something they are excited about.
“It’s really necessary that the girls have a venue where they can just vent and talk to people who understand exactly what they’re going through,” Lockridge said.
Ophelia’s Girls members attend weekly meetings to brainstorm pressing topics and effective ways to present them.
Topics have included bullying, gossip, self-confidence, school-related stress, body issues and trouble with friends.
Former leader senior Carly Cox said members attempt to make the lesson plans both informative and interactive. For example, when discussing bullying, the girls matched statistical percentages to narrative statements, so that the girls learned while also participating in a hands-on activity.
“As the semester goes along, we get to know the girls and know what they’re interested in … The sign of success for us is when we have the same girls coming back week after week. One of the most beneficial things for us is when we can tell that the girls are disappointed when we cancel. They want us there. They look forward to it. They come in with things to say and stories to tell,” Cox said.Ophelia’s Girls is unique to Colgate because it is the COVE’s only all-female group. The group’s female focus allows the Madison students many benefits.
“Sometimes it’s more difficult for girls to find outlets, especially in that age group. I think girls are generally more cliquey and this gives them a way to escape from that typical ‘Mean Girls’ cafeteria scene and come to something where there are people from different friend groups and there are older girls who aren’t part of their high school social scene. At least in the middle and high schools that I’ve witnessed, girls’ social structures are more exclusive than guys’,” Cox said.
Ophelia’s Girls allows the Madison students to interact with another crowd of older students.
“[Middle school and high school] is a really tough time for girls and it really helps to have an older girl who makes you feel cool and that you’re worthy of their time,” Lockridge said.
Ophelia’s Girls is also unique because it only contains about 20 members. However, just three or four members per semester perform the actual service at Madison Central School because Colgate students’ schedules often conflict with the adolescents’ lunch period.
According to Langford, the size of Ophelia’s Girls allows its members to work better as a mentoring team. It also facilitates close connections with the Madison students who come back year after year.
One must apply to become a member of Ophelia’s Girls. Cox noted that a lot of the members either provided or benefited from a similar service in their high school, so they understand the importance of this program.
According to Cox, Ophelia’s Girls derives its name from the troubled character in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” who now serves as a model of the potential consequences of pressures on misunderstood adolescent girls.
“I joined Ophelia’s Girls because I believe that many young women suffer from having a negative self image. I want to ensure that these girls have a bright future filled with happiness,” Langford said. “It is nice to be immersed in life outside of Colgate. Giving back to the community on a Friday afternoon is always a great way to start the weekend.”
Ophelia’s Girls gives Colgate students the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
“I was really attracted to Ophelia’s Girls because I think as a Colgate student, it’s easy to forget about your surroundings and I think this kind of humbles us and brings us back to reality,” Cox said.
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