A swarm of sixth-grade girls from across Smith County inundated the One Ten Student Center in Tyler on Saturday to proclaim, “I am strong.”
The girls on Saturday were accompanied by appointed chaperones, including parents and school officials.
Betsy Jones, chairwoman of the Kids in the Kitchen initiative, was part of the event, hosting a healthy cooking demonstration. Jones said the goal of the initiative is to fight childhood obesity and make healthy lifelong decisions.
“They’re beginning to make their own independent decisions about eating, fitness and nutrition,” Jones said. “So we wanted to provide them with the information they needed to start making those really good choices at an early age.”
In addition to nutrition information, the girls participated in the “Chick Chat” forum, a question-and-answer session with expert panelists from the area, including OB-GYN Jennifer Rippy, dermatologist Dr. Jenni Holman, nutritionist Sara Upson and fitness guru Ashley Lovely.
At the forum, the panelists answered questions from a wide range of topics, including puberty and fitness.
The girls participated in a Zumba dance class, led by Veronica Holsomback and Tanya Peterson.
“It gives our girls an opportunity to come together with other schools and see that they’re not in this by themselves,” she said.
Anderson stressed the previous Junior League event, along with this one, gave girls the confidence they need at this stage in their lives.
“That’s really kind of the underlying premise of this whole event, ‘be happy with who you are,’ or ‘be the best you can be,’ and not compare yourself all the time to Hollywood or even other girls around them.”
Cherri Straus, counselor at E.J. Moss Intermediate, agreed, saying confidence is a very important thing for girls at this age.
“It helps them not buy into the peer pressure if they have that confidence,” she said.
Vicki Leigheber came with her daughter Jenna, who attends Holloway Sixth Grade School in Whitehouse.
Mrs. Leigheber believes that girls entering womanhood can benefit from the information they learned at the event.
“It’s really a great opportunity for girls this age, who are ready to start junior high next year, to kind of bond and have a chance to learn a lot and be together as a group,” she said. “It’s important, as girls are maturing and starting into womanhood, to really get an idea of how their bodies are changing and how to work with each other.”
Jenna, who attended the September event and plans to attend in April, thought the event was fun and informative.
“I thought it would be interesting to learn about some stuff, because sometimes I feel a little insecure about what’s going to happen to me,” she said. “But this has actually given me a lot of self-esteem and confidence about what’s going to happen in the future.”