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Grace Academy Beauty Project promotes encouragement and positive role models

April 13, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Katie Fick prepares for the lock-in at Grace Academy Friday. Fick, the school's guidance counselor, has helped the students organize the Beauty Project.
By Caleb Calhoun/Mobile Journalist

Age gaps or high school cliques don’t matter when it comes to developing friendships among members of the Grace Academy Beauty Project.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know high school girls,” said Ruthie Buser of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Grace Academy in Hagerstown. “I really feel more connected to the middle and high school girls altogether.”

The project is designed to provide encouragement and serve as a positive role model to girls in the sixth through eighth grades.

It has included luncheons among the participants so far, and on Friday, the girls were able to take part in a “lock-in” at the school from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. today.

The lock-in was scheduled to begin with ice-breakers and devotional time, followed by crafts, movies and games.

“As a middle-schooler, I really looked up to the high-schoolers a lot, and I didn’t really get connections with them,” said Greencastle, Pa., resident Brooke Morgan, a 15-year-old 10th-grader. “Now that I’m a high-schooler, it’s really nice to make connections with the middle-school girls and help them grow.”

Keshia Harney,16, said she came up with the idea for the project with fellow student Camille Sprecher. They drafted and sent out letters to the high school girls inviting them to commit to the project.

Harney, an 11th-grader from Hagerstown, said she drew some of her ideas from personal experiences.

“I was really isolated, dark, and twisty in middle school, and I saw a lot of that in some of the other girls,” she said. “I wanted to help them understand that they’re amazing, and they’re beautiful.”

She said that she has been humbled by the success of the project so far.

“We just had a little project that we wanted to do, and it turned into something that it really big,” she said. “We’re hoping to branch out to some of the other schools nearby soon.”

Twenty-two high school girls at the school have committed to taking part in the project, according to the school’s guidance counselor, Katie Fick.

Fick has helped Harney and Sprecher organize the project. She said they have been interns for her this semester and thought of the project back in February.

“To see the leaders genuinely be excited about talking to the girls and being nice has been sweet,” Fick said. “The administration has been really excited about it, and they’re super supportive.”

She said that the project has not had problems with girls separating themselves into groups.

“All of that stuff that typically sets up the cliques, the project has kind of smushed those boundaries,” Fick said. “As a guidance counselor, you can’t ask for any more than to see a bunch of people tear down that cliquish stuff that you get.”

The first meeting among the mentors was Tuesday, Feb. 21. A luncheon on March 9 was then held in the gym of the school to jump-start the project.

Other events have included an Easter Pizza Lunch on April 5,  Friday’s lock-in, and a lunch check-in on April 27.

“The project really encourages you to do the right thing, and they’re really helpful with advice,” said Hagerstown resident Hannah Colvin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader. “I’ve never grown up with an older sister, so it’s nice to have older girls to look up to.”

Donations from churches, businesses, parents, and the staff have helped the project pay for things so far, Fick said.

Sprecher and Harney even drafted letters to send out to local businesses explaining the project and inviting them to help.

Greencastle resident Rebecca House, a 16-year-old 11th grader, said she wanted to help with the project because she struggled with personal beauty at one point.

“If someone had told me when I was in middle school that I was beautiful, I probably wouldn’t have believed them,” she said. “These girls just need to know that they are beautiful the way that they are.”

Eventually, Fick said she plans for the mentors to work with a specific group of girls to help them build stronger relationships.

Hagerstown resident Emma Stonestreet, 14, said that the relationships will help the girls.

“I didn’t really have many friends when I first came here,” said Stonestreet, a ninth-grader. “I really feel like helping these girls would get them through their middle-school years.”

Hagerstown resident Allie Cox, a 16-year-old 10th grader, said that middle-school kids seem to be more unhappy now than when she was in middle school.

“I think more people in middle school are OK with sadness,” she said. “They need more mentoring, and people to help them out.”

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