By Crystal Wong, Girls Inc. Intern
“STOP. LEAVE ME ALONE. GO AWAY. AHHH!”
A small group of five elementary school girls scream at the top of their lungs and run around the grassy lawn before eventually collapsing onto the ground in a fit of giggles.
For the most part, these three phrases are often associated with danger. But with Girls Inc. of Orange County, their Elementary School programs are trying to teach their participants how to protect themselves in everyday situations.
For the months of April, May, and June, Girls Inc. is bringing their program Action for Safety to Adams Elementary and College Park Elementary. In collaboration with Project Success – Newport Mesa Unified School District’s after school program – Girls Inc. is offering a program that teaches enrolled girls how to react in situations where, when, and if they ever feel threatened.
Andria Azevedo is the current facilitator in charge of preparing the girls to be what Girls Inc. stands for – strong, smart, and bold. Azevedo is particularly passionate about what she teaches and what Girls Inc. has to offer for younger children.
“We’re trying to teach girls what you can’t really learn in school,” said Azevedo.
Having gone through the program herself when she was younger, Azevedo has emerged as the epitome of strong, smart, and bold. Azevedo is confident when demonstrating how to do a sidekick, yet she is gentle when speaking to the girls who look up to her.
The Elementary Program is currently aimed towards teaching 3rd through 6th graders how to be aware of their surroundings, protect themselves by using self-defense, and how to actively use their voice. Divided into two groups (3rd and 4th, 5th and 6th), each group spends an hour each reviewing and practicing how to throw punches and kicks, on punching bags and escape techniques through partner activity. Besides physical activity, Azevedo also encourages her students to actively use their voices.
“Anything can happen at any age,” said Azevedo, “It’s important to start learning now so in the future they will be prepared.”
Nine-year-old Carla Ramierez thinks that Girls Inc. is generous in what they have to offer. By offering programs such as Action for Safety, Ramirez believes she will retain what she has used and apply it to real life situations when necessary.
“It looks boring, but it’s actually fun,” said Ramirez when asked what she truly thinks about Action for Safety.
The feel good message that Girls Inc. tries to spread does not only apply to its participants – it also applies to its volunteers.
Emily Hublitz, one of the volunteers with the Elementary Program believes Girls Inc.’s message is empowering and inspiring. Hublitz enjoys volunteering with Girls Inc. because she feels strongly that the programs Girls Inc. offers is beneficial.
“It’s something I wish I had been taught when I was in elementary,” said Hublitz. “People just assume this is something you pick up, but it’s not. It’s something you have to learn.”
Katherine Alonso Aguilar, another volunteer with the Elementary Program likes how Girls Inc. is teaching girls how to be bold and assertive.
While the past three months have been dedicated to teaching girls how to react in situations where they feel they are in danger, the Elementary Programs have also offered different programs featuring different agendas in the past. Some examples have been Mind and Body, which focused on nutrition and fitness as well as Sci Girls, which concentrated on encouraging girls to pursue their interests in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field.
By offering a place for girls to encounter new experiences, Girls Inc. also offers a place to teach girls how to develop important life skills, something that isn’t usually taught in school. It’s important for girls to start learning at any age how to develop the values and skills they need in order to become confident, productive, and responsible adults. Or in the words of Girls Inc., inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.