WCHS launches empowerment group for Black female students

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The second meeting of Westerville Central High School’s Black female student empowerment group recently gathered to continue a conversation many of them don’t typically voice out loud.

“The last time we met we talked about the lies people have said about us, the lies that we sometimes believe about ourselves and the lies that the media tells us,” Dr. Arianna Howard, a cultural diversity expert and educational consultant, said the students during their meeting earlier this month.

Howard worked with girls to dig deeper to uncover where those lies they tell themselves come from — and to start thinking about how they speak back to those lies and that conditioning.

“They feel these things, they can experience these things but I think to be in a space next to other girls who are feeling the same things can be empowering for them,” she said.

Howard has been leading Black female empowerment groups in the district, starting with students at Westerville South High School in February. WCHS’ equity team worked with Cynthia DeVese, the district’s Educational Equity coordinator, to have Howard launch a similar effort with their students in March. 

“We thought it was vital to make space for young Black women to connect with one another in a positive, facilitated way during the school day to address issues that particularly speak to their own struggles and dreams,” said Azalea Tang, social worker and mental health specialist who serves on the school’s Equity team. 

“By bringing Dr. Howard together in unison with our own Black female educators in the building, we hope powerful connections could be made for the girls within our school and Westerville community.”

The school’s equity team reached out to teachers and administrators to identify students who would benefit from this group. They also invited students involved in the MODEL Mentoring program in middle school to participate. Funding for the project hails from money the Treasurer’s office has earmarked to support school equity initiatives through the District Equity Team.  

“We are excited about the personal growth and self-reflection the girls are experiencing in such a short time,” DeVese said.

After the positive feedback from students and staff, educators are planning to extend Howard’s work with students at both high schools over the summer, giving groups more time to connect and cover additional topics. 

At WCHS, students said they are thankful to have a safe space to speak openly about their feelings.

“Black girls go through so much stuff,” freshman Amina Mohamed said. “It would be better to get it out in a safe environment with other girls where they can relate.”

Freshman Beatrice Sesay agrees. Having this space means everything to her, she said.

“It makes me feel better about myself, empowered, knowing other girls are feeling the same way,” she said.