Benton Heights Elementary club teaches girls self-esteem and much more
Come December, members of the Benton Heights Elementary Jagged Pearls club will graduate.
They arrived a “bit rough around the edges,” coordinator and fourth grade teacher Renee Rogers recalled. “Some were even afraid to speak out loud.”
After two years together, however, the girls have evolved into what Rogers describes as “true gems.”
The Jagged Pearls club is the brainchild of Rogers, who wanted a way to instill character values like self-esteem and stewardship into elementary school-aged girls. “I wanted them to learn the value of paying it forward.”
Giving to others covers so much more than just writing a check. “A lot of our girls don’t have a lot,” she said. “But community service is about more than just money – it’s about giving up time and talent as well.”
A Community Girl’s Night Out
Each month, Jagged Pearls members participate in a community service project. For October’s fundraiser, the project is a girl’s night.
Titled “I am Beautiful,” the event is open to any girls ages 5 to 12, along with the “special woman” in their life, be it a grandmother, mother or even an aunt. “I am Beautiful” will take place Thursday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the school, 1200 Concord Ave. in Monroe.
“We want girls to walk away from the evening pumped about being a girl,” Rogers explained. The fifth grade girls are leading the activities as part of their effort to pay it forward. “I am just the mom-iter,” she joked.
The girls enjoy refreshments along with a pampering station complete with manicures and face painting for $5 per family. A dress-up station, as well as a “globalization” station where guests can learn about girls around the world, also will be part of the fun. Funds raised during this event will help support a Jagged Pearls trip to Washington, D.C., next spring.
Over the course of the night, guests will enter an “affirmation” station to learn how to provide sincere compliments to themselves and others. “We want them to learn how to say nice things about themselves, and mean it,” Rogers said.
Jagged Pearl member Vanessa Escoto said she was especially excited about the closing affirmation parade, where girls and their mothers will share the compliments they gave and received.
A History of Giving
The Jagged Pearls may be small and young, but the ripple effects of their community service efforts are large and wide reaching. Examples include last month’s work with Turning Point, a Union County domestic violence shelter located in Monroe, which the girls supported by donating supplies.
During the Haitian earthquake, the Jagged Pearls raised $3,500 and donated it to the American Red Cross’s Hearts for Haiti program. Fifth Grader Charity Miller says she particularly enjoyed “helping people with their babies” by donating items to help young mothers at the local teen center.
Living the Motto
January inductees to the Jagged Pearl Club will continue in this tradition of monthly giving. A girl who wishes to join the club must receive an invitation based in large part on teacher recommendations. Once a girl becomes a member, she must maintain all A’s and B’s on her report card.
Jagged Pearls learn to live the club’s motto – “act like a lady even when no one else is looking.” Rogers says the girls are ready for graduation once they have internalized this motto, and have learned they should make the right decision even when doing so is not always necessary or required.
If there is any doubt the club has succeeded in making its mark, look no further than Trinity Williams, a fifth grade Jagged Pearl member who will graduate in December. “We learn things that we might go through and might be able to teach others,” Williams replied when asked her favorite part about being a Jagged Pearl. “The club helps us to stay on the right track.”