In the past few months a national dialogue about bullying has erupted. This moment highlighted a crisis that has been going on in schools for years but has never been appropriately addressed. A study discussed in the New York Times suggests that verbally and physically aggressive behavior is starting as early as age 5. The article states, “One recent survey of 273 third graders in Massachusetts found that 47 percent have been bullied at least once; 52 percent reported being teased in a hurtful way.” These are our girls! Strong Women, Strong Girls reaches out to third to fifth grade girls in over 35 sites in Boston and so the dialogue has undeniably touched our community.
Every year Strong Women, Strong Girls incorporates curriculum on cultural sensitivity. The mentors present a biography on a woman or girl who faced discrimination and overcame adversity in school or at work. After the biography mentors facilitate a conversation about bullying: Have you seen bullying in action?  Have you ever been bullied? The girls, usually talkative, tend to resist the conversation at first but eventually come to share their experiences and acts of bullying, or worse, that they’ve witnessed. This is where it can get tricky for mentors. So just remember to use the tools you already have- SWSG Best Practices!

1. Capable: Before you see the girls it is important to meet with your co-mentors and frame the discussion, meaning, choose appropriate language in advance, plan for tough questions to allow the girls the potential to succeed in this conversation.
2. Contribute: When you start the conversation with the girls, be sure to reinforce the notion that mentoring sessions are a safe place. Go over your ‘Do-List’, placing emphasis on being respectful, listening, and supporting others in the group. In addition, it is easy for the girls to become side tracked or focused on one event. Be sure to keep them focused on the big picture, relating the conversation back to the biography to reengage the girls.
3. Connect: At the end, follow up with the girls. Acknowledge their stories and thank them for sharing with you. Also remember that if you hear a story from a girl that is surprising or seems serious, reach out to your site facilitator- it is not something you have to address on your own.