By Breanne O’Leary

I was fortunate enough to attend middle school right before Instagram was created. I am forever grateful that I never had to worry about how many likes my selfie would get. I was already grappling with a typical middle school struggle of losing my group of friends. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like if I had to carry my ostracized feelings everywhere with me in the form of a handheld device. Yes, I actually am grateful that I didn’t get a cell phone until 8th grade (and it was a flip phone!), despite me begging my parents for one sooner. As someone in their early 20s, I believe girls today have way too much stress put on them through the media. Meanwhile, those typical middle school struggles haven’t gone away. This is precisely the reason why Celebration Foundation created the Women’s Initiative Nurturing Girls’ Strength (WINGS) program to impart positive messaging to young girls.

Celebration Foundation partnered with Celebration K-8 School beginning in 2014 to offer monthly “Power Lunches” to 5th-8th grade students during the school year. We have been working closely with the 5th grade and middle school counselors at Celebration K-8 in order to provide Power Lunch curriculum that meets the current needs of students at Celebration K-8. Topics discussed during Power Lunches this past year included self-love, kindness to others, and positive uses of social media. Topics are chosen based on common themes that the school counselors have noticed come up in their discussions with students.

At the end of each school year, we wrap up the Power Lunches by having a Power Breakfast at Town Hall. All 5th-8th grade students who have regularly participated in the Power Lunches during the past year are invited to attend. At our Power Breakfast, we typically have a guest speaker who focuses on empowering young girls through a particular theme. This year, we focused on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Previous years’ topics included women in politics and women in the news media. The goal of these Power Breakfasts is to get young girls to think more positively about their future and to think about entering careers that are not traditionally seen as being something that women do.

WINGS stands for encouraging young girls to think beyond the stereotypes!