Many of us can remember how difficult middle school can be. Many of us could have benefited from having the opportunity to discuss our concerns and frustrations with a caring, young adult—someone to listen, support, provide validation, and encourage us.
G.R.O.W - Growing into Respected Outstanding Women - is a mentoring program which pairs a select group of young adult undergraduate and graduate women (under 25 years old) who possess outstanding leadership qualities with a select group of middle school girls from Calloway County and Murray Middle Schools who could benefit from interactions with a positive female role model.
Currently under the supervision of Abigail French, Director of the MSU Women’s Center , the G.R.O.W. program is in its twelfth year at MSU. The program is designed to foster personal growth and develop leadership skills in both the college women and middle school girls. Through interactions with a positive female role model, the program aims to enhance the self-esteem of the middle school girls and to help develop and nurture their potential. The program gives college women a chance to, not only develop leadership skills, but also improve their communication skills, make new, life-long friends, and be involved in meaningful ways on campus.
G.R.O.W. was created in the fall of 2001 by an intern, Kennette Cleaver, who was completing her minor in Youth and Non-profit Leadership. She worked closely with Jane Etheridge and adapted G.R.O.W. from the Young Women Leaders Program, a mentoring program established at the University of Virginia in 1997 by directors Kim Roberts, Ph.D., and Winx Lawrence, Ph.D.
The Young Women Leaders Program developed out of concern about the self-esteem of adolescent girls. In the early 1990’s, a study by the American Association of University Women found that as girls move from childhood into adolescence, their self-esteem drops significantly. The Young Women Leaders Program was designed to respond to that concern as well as have other benefits. Through structured and unstructured interactions with a pre-teen, an undergraduate college woman could share her many gifts with others and help a young girl learn about her own leadership potential in a supportive, diverse, and safe environment.
College women interested the G.R.O.W. program go through an application process at the beginning of the fall semester. The women, sophomores through graduate level (under 25 years old), submit an application, a list of references, and an essay. Applications are evaluated and narrowed down to a smaller pool for interviewing and 20-28 mentors are selected. Mentors immediately begin a nine-week training program, meeting two hours each week. Training is designed to prepare the young women to be effective mentors as well as to develop a “team” of diverse women who demonstrate respect for each other and what each woman brings to the program.