School had just ended for the day and one-by-one, fifth-grade girls wearing tie-dyed shirts were making their way into the school cafeteria. It was time for the regular meeting of the Fairfield Elementary School GLAM Club.
“The GLAM Club is open to fifth-grade girls and is designed to help boost their self-esteem,’” said school Gifted Resource teacher Laura Burnette. “At any meeting we have 40 to 50 young ladies in attendance.”
The GLAM Club was established in the 2009-2010 school year following the receipt of a Building Futures Grant from the Virginia Beach Education Foundation.
“Linda Whitehead, since retired, was originally the driving force of really pushing the idea to start a girls group at the elementary level,” said Jennifer Mazur, former Fairfield and current Salem Middle School art teacher. “She was volunteering with teenage girls after school and saw a huge decline in their self-esteem. She was afraid that without a specialized program, our girls would be on that same path.”
The two joined forces with former school counselor Carrie Bosseler to put together the framework of the club.
“As the counselor, Carrie saw the potential for the girls’ group to be very powerful especially when we had so many mentors on board to support the program,” added Mazur. “I wanted to use cooperative learning strategies in an environment that wasn’t academically driven but socially driven.”
The GLAM Club meets twice monthly and includes three main parts: time with a mentor, whole group activities and reflection of what they have learned, achieved and were motivated by the activities or meeting topics. This year, journaling between mentors and students was added to create another opportunity for communication.
Burnette pointed out the wide range of subjects. “This year, our topics include: self-esteem, friendship, middle school expectations, body image, role models, stress management, etiquette and especially community service.”
“Sometimes we do nice things to help other people and I really like that. I feel happy when I do it,” said fifth-grader Nicole Byrd.
Club member Suji Lee also shared what she loves about GLAM. “I like that we get to do fun activities and we get to help others.”
The goal of GLAM is to encourage the girls to reach for better and to be more aware of themselves in a positive manner.
“The hope is that the girls have an opportunity to get to know each other in a way that they otherwise might not have the chance to,” Burnette said. “GLAM provides them with the opportunity to talk to each other about topics, thoughts and feelings in a safe, supportive environment. It is a great bonding experience for them.”