Submitted by 2017 Summer Intern Ellie Hall

My name is Eliana Hall and I am a student at McLean High School. This is a story about my experience working with Love the Skin You’re In and The Global CoLab as their joint 2017 Summer Intern — and how our school collaborated with them for maximum impact.  

This past year our school principal, psychologist, and five female students, including myself, started a group to improve our school community for our female students. We called this group the Girl’s Leadership Committee.  The Girls’ Leadership Committee is a unique student run and administration sponsored organization started at McLean High School by the principal and school psychologist. There are two main purposes of this committee. One is to empower female students to become more confident in their everyday lives and academic experiences. The second purpose is to create a more supportive environment for female students at school so they can develop a positive sense of self, healthy relationships with others, and effective communication skills. The structure of the Girls’ Leadership Committee is unique in several ways. The committee is actually led by the students in planning and executing ideas and programs, with the support of the sponsoring administrators. The McLean Girls’ Leadership Committee is sponsored by the school principal, psychologist, career center specialist, and a school counselor. Due to this set-up, there is a direct relationship between students and the administration. The Girls’ Leadership Committee is open to any female/ transgender/ non-binary student who wants to join and is purposely composed of female students from all grades, extracurricular activities, and cultural/ideological backgrounds. This allows the committee to not be a club, but rather a network of female students who can spread the ideas of the Girls’ Leadership Committee.  Our overall goal is to connect different student groups and organizations to each other to better organize and promote a supportive environment that empowers young women. 

During our first year at McLean High School we worked on several different issues. As a committee we address a broad range of issues. This past year we felt it would be most effective to address these issues by bringing Brie Mathers to give her Love the Skin You’re In presentation to all the young women at McLean. Brie discusses body positivity, confidence, mindfulness, health and wellness, and creating a supportive community in which young women build each other up. The young women at McLean seemed to be incredibly responsive to Brie’s message. The issues Brie addresses are rarely brought up in school, however, very relevant to every young woman in middle school and high school. This could be seen in the responses from McLean students. Many girls came up to Brie after the presentations to share how much what she had said resonated with them. Many more girls wrote personal responses sharing their experience struggling with body image, confidence, and relationships and how Brie’s presentation had helped them. 

Following Brie’s presentations, the Global Co Lab worked with the McLean Girls’ Leadership Committee to host discussions with Brie, McLean students, and local organizations, held at Starbucks and in student’s homes.  In these discussions young women continued to share their experiences, finding common ground and narrowing in on the main issues that needed to be addressed to create a more supportive and empowering community for young women. It was through these discussions that we were able to further create plans for how to address the issues facing our female students. It was an incredible experience for me to witness both Brie’s presentations and the discussions following. Brie was quickly able to bring every girl in the room together and the constructive difference this made could be seen in the following discussion. It was amazing to see how empowered every girl felt after the presentation and how much more open they were to sharing their personal experience after they saw that they were not alone. Following Brie’s presentations and the discussions with the Global Co Lab our committee grew from 5 girls to about 20 young women from all grades and school activities. Our group is now using our broader reach to work towards creating a more supportive community and empowering the young women of our school. We hope to bring more speakers to give presentations to empower our students, such as Brie did.  We hope to also share our model with other schools and communities.