Girls get in the F.L.O. at middle school

Published 9:14 am Monday, January 16, 2012

Being a teenager is hard.

Body changes coupled with emotional struggles of becoming a young adult are confusing and difficult and in many cases compounded by gossip in hallways.

But there is a new program at Charles Henderson Middle School  bringing girls together so they can learn to empower each other, rather than belittle each other. F.L.O. (For Ladies Only) meetings began in August 2011 as an after-school group to build self-confidence and teach tolerance.

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“It has opened their eyes,” said Scherrie Banks, a counselor who is new to the school this year. “There is more talking and more understanding.”

Banks said she and a few others started a F.L.O. program in a Nashville school and she felt CHMS girls could benefit greatly from a support system of other girls.

Currently, about 32 girls are enrolled in the program that meets from 3 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. Topics range from reputation and gossip, to study tips and etiquette.

“Ms. Banks made us mix tables so we weren’t just sitting with our friends,” said Latricia Shipmon who is 14 and in the eighth grade. “We started to get to know each other and I realized some things I heard about other girls just weren’t true.”

One of the first sessions Banks had with the young ladies was character versus reputation. The students role-played and discovered that spreading rumors isn’t acceptable and stereotypes aren’t always reflective of who a person really is.

“Reputation is what people perceive because of what they hear and character is your true self,” Shipmon said. “We’re learning to build our character.”

Seventh-grader Everlena Staggs, 12, said she joined F.L.O because she was looking for more positive influences during her time in middle school.

“Girls can be really mean, especially in middle school,” Staggs said. “If we all come together, there is more understanding and less fighting and gossip.”

“The main thing we are learning is not to judge people,” Shipmon added.

Banks said she is proud of the girls who are already in F.L.O. and hopes the program continues to grow. The sessions are open to all girls in 7th and 8th grades. Banks said wants to work with local businesses and successful women in the area to empower the girls at CHMS.
“We have a little way to go because it’s new,” Banks said. “But the girls really want to work together, and that is inspiring.”