High school senior girls take freshmen under their wings

The Vindicator (Youngstown)


Jena Yambrovich gets a toilet paper wedding dress from her fellow South Range High School classmates at a Sisterhood Project event. The Sisterhood Project acts as a support group for freshman girls by integrating them with members of the senior class.

By Karl Henkel



Emily Meals knows what it’s like to grow up as the oldest child, with no older siblings to learn from.

The 18-year-old senior at South Range in Beaver Township wants to make sure all freshmen in the district have a support group to help them through the tough transition period that is high school.

So Meals, along with 111 fellow seniors, teamed up Friday with the freshman class for an “overnighter” at the school. It was the latest event of the Sisterhood Project, which helps connect the youngest and oldest students at the high school.

“I just know when I was a freshman, the concerns I had about high school,” Meals said. “It’s a good way to bridge the gap between the oldest and youngest girls in the school.”

The project, now in its third year, matches female students based on similar interests and activities, somewhat similar to the “Big Sister, Little Sister,” relationship in Greek sorority life. It gets together every month or two for a group event, such as Friday, for Zumba lessons and watching movies.

The mentoring aspect, said Steve Ellyson, a psychology professor at Youngstown State University, has proved helpful for those encountering new circumstances such as high school.

“When you’re in a new situation,” he said, “it’s really nice to have someone to show you the ropes.”

And at the least, counselor Cindy Maynard said, it’s an extracurricular activity that every student can be a part of.

“Some girls don’t have band, they don’t have sports,” she said. “But they feel like, ‘I’m in the Sisterhood. At least I have something that connects me to my school.’”

Meals said her goal isn’t to forge best-friendships, but instead to let the freshmen know they have someone they can go to if they have a question or problem and to curb bullying issues.

Principal Steve Rohan said schools can’t ignore bullying because it happens everywhere, which is why the school has taken many anti-bullying stances.

“You don’t really know the extent of the problem,” Maynard said. “Anyone who says for a fact they know what’s going on in their school ... they don’t.”

There was a recent police report filed citing bullying in the township, and Maynard said the widespread popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter along with text messaging is a way bullying has gone from a school-hours problem to a 24/7, 365-day issue.

Meals said it’s a two-sided coin with both benefits and drawbacks.

“It’s good for communication,” Meals said. “At the same time, it’s so much easier to be anonymous when you’re talking bad about someone.”

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