Young Women in Action helps fifth-grade girls realize their potential

Adding new dimensions to their lives

Linda Haines (seated) enjoys a laugh with several fifth-grade girls from Hathaway Elementary School during her “bad manners” skit at K’Syrah restaurant in Camas.

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Young Women in Action is a program for fifth-grade girls designed to teach them new skills and increase their confidence. Here, they enjoy a meal with their mentors.

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Linda Haines and Jocelyn Lindsay pretend to sample from each other’s plates during the “bad manners,” skit for several fifth-grade girls at Hathaway Elementary School. After the skit, they enjoyed a lunch with good manners as a part of the Young Women in Action program.

Talking on your cell phone during lunch? Being rude to the server? Wrinkling up your nose while looking at the menu? While this may sound like an episode of a bad reality television show, it was actually a demonstration of what not to do while dining out.The lesson about appropriate (and inappropriate) restaurant manners was conducted by Linda Haines and Jocelyn Lindsay, who are spearheading a program for fifth-grade girls at Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal.

Young Women in Action was started several years ago at Washington Elementary School in Vancouver. It is designed to help fifth-grade girls gain confidence and realize different opportunities, according to Haines.

“The whole idea is to get them to open their eyes to what is out there, and that they can do anything they want to do,” she said. “Also, we want to get the girls closer to each other before they go to middle school, to make the whole transition easier. Each session is meant to add a new dimension to their lives.”

Haines, a member of the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club and Camas resident, said that it seemed only natural to have the program locally. She approached Hathaway Elementary School principal Laura Bolt, who agreed it was needed.

“This program has been seen as a very positive experience for our girls,” Bolt said. “They are very excited to participate each Wednesday. I have seen an increase in self-esteem, girls behaving more age appropriate, and girls paying attention more to their appearance. Girls are standing up taller and appear more positive.”

Haines plans on implementing a program for boys next year and is currently seeking mentors.

Young Women in Action is free for any fifth-grade girl at Hathaway who wants to participate. It is an eight-week program. The Camas-Washougal Rotary is providing funding. Sessions are held every Wednesday afternoon on school early release days and include activities such as lessons on money management, friendship bracelet making, collage making, a trip to Manning Academy of Cosmetology for haircut and style, instruction on exercise and nutrition, and a final celebration. Last Wednesday’s session on restaurant manners included a full lunch at K’Syrah restaurant in Camas.

Currently, there are 10 mentors and 24 fifth-grade girls participating.

Lyric Purdom said her favorite part of the program is the mentors.

“They are really nice,” she said. “My favorite class was making a collage of what you wanted to do as a career.”

Kayla Bradford enjoys being around her friends.

“It’s nice hanging out with all the other girls and learning new ways to deal with stuff,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to the personal care day.”

Joy Utton enjoys learning new things and being with friends.

“Making the collages was the best,” she said.

Autumn Chick agrees.

“Learning new things is my favorite and the trip to the beauty school was the most exciting,” she said.

Rotary member and mentor Barbara Crozier enjoys spending time with the girls and seeing their enjoyment of the program.

“Now that the program is close to home, I have more time to volunteer,” she said. “It’s fun to see and work with the girls every week.”

Mentor Joyce Lindsay chose to volunteer for the program since she is Rotary member and lives close to Hathaway.

“I have a special feeling for it,” she said. “I think this program is wonderful, and Linda and Jocelyn are doing a great job with it. I really enjoy interacting with the girls. They’re a really nice group and fun.”

Dawn Tarzian, Washougal School District superintendent, appreciates the mentors’ willingness to participate and dedication to the girls.

“There is no greater contribution that can be made to the future of a child than the commitment of time and the willingness to mentor a young person,” she said. “This program teaches these young adolescent girls financial management, etiquette, career planning and the importance of community service. This is an experience that will directly impact their thinking and behavior as they prepare for life beyond school. I am deeply appreciative of the Rotary Club and am looking forward to the implementation of a program for boys in the coming year.“

To volunteer or contribute to Young Women in Action, or to help with the boys program next year, contact Haines at 360-992-7984 or Jocelyn Lindsay at 360-607-5146.