This week at G.O.A.L.S was jam-packed; we had our highest attendance with well over 20 members. In addition to our weekly activities which I will touch on later, we had our very first guest speaker, Mrs. Cherise Melton Khaund, an active member of our community, MDUSD advocate and Walnut Acres Elementary PFC President. It was the perfect week to have our first guest speaker in celebration of International Women’s Week! The members took to Mrs. Khaund immediately , she started by talking to the girls about
her childhood in Venezuela where she had no knowledge of the Spanish language as many of the girls could not speak English when they first immigrated to the United States. She then recounted her experience growing up in Saudi Arabia (which excited two Arab girls). After that, she segwayed into her college career as an Engineering major at Stanford University which was not only academically challenging for her but, she was met with reactions such as “you don’t look like an engineer.” She asked the girls what an engineer looks like and the response was “anything.” We feel she is a great role model to the girls as a woman in STEM which, as we have discussed many times in past meetings is crucial due to the underrepresentation of women in this growing field. The academic portion of G.O.A.L.S encourages STEM and Mrs. Khaund did a wonderful job on further educating the members on how important it is that they pursue their interests in those subjects. Mrs. Khaund then discussed the Safe Haven Resolution and NUSD which are two pressing and divisive issues in the community. She then asked the girls about their aspirations and ideal careers; their responses were diverse varying from becoming a doctor to a fashion designer. She talked with them about their lives at Oak Grove and what they would like to see improved. The two main issues were: the math classes are too easy and the minimal amount of recycling bins at the school. She encouraged them to make their concerns heard to the school and MDUSD, inspiring us as leaders to tackle these new challenges. We cannot thank Mrs. Khaund enough for accepting our invitation and for doing so much for our schools!
Our activity for the day was : the m&m icebreaker The girls were asked to pick one m&m and hold onto it until the game officially begun. We started at one end of the table and worked our way around and asked each of the girl’s questions such as: “what makes you sad?” or “what makes you excited?” At first, they seemed to be confused but they caught on: the color of the m&ms determined the question we would ask. Some of them were hesitant to answer, but most of them eventually did. One answer that stood out was in response to “what makes you happy?” and she responded with “…a happy family.” This was an effective and fun icebreaker game that practiced on rewarding communication and discussion.
After this, we began another activity but this time related to the theme at hand knowing we had an amazing speaker: stereotypes perpetuated on women. Without any clues , Ellora asked the members to raise their hands and call out suggestions for a birthday party for a young girl and a young boy. Not surprisingly, they said “pink decorations and dolls” for a girl’s party and “blue decorations and sports” for the boy’s party. We began to question how many of the girls liked sports, the color blue, etc. and the majority did; we additionally asked how many disliked the color pink and dolls and many raised their hands in agreement. Thus, this prompted us to ask why they did not list activities they liked under the girl’s party, but rather “girly” and more feminine activities. They responded by essentially saying, “That’s how we are trained to think.” We began to discuss the expectations for girls in society such as being fragile and delicate and the surprise many face when they are not, causing them to say phrases such as “like a girl” or “you got beat by a girl!” One member mentioned whenever someone tells her she “throws like a girl” she says, “yeah, so what?” This instigated a conversation about turning phrases with negative connotations into empowering moments and fighting misogynistic language at school or in our society. I shared how in the 7th grade when a male classmate asked what my favorite subjects were and I responded science and math he immediately looked shocked and claimed “that’s weird.” Initially, I was confused by his reaction but as I have grown older I understand: he was gender stereotyping me. As a whole we agreed that this was one of our best meetings and so happy to see our members so engaged!- Aava Farhadi