ROX program expands, empowering girls throughout Westerville
Since October, the inaugural members of Hawthorne Elementary’s Ruling Our Experiences (ROX) girls group have been gathering each week to explore topics to help them navigate relationships, experiences and decisions.
During a recent lesson, they examined what it means to be a team, creating a paper chain that symbolizes their commitment to each other and their ROX group.
In its first year at Hawthorne, the ROX program has already made a difference with the 15 girls participating in the group, school counselor Jenny Scherer said.
“I’ve seen a huge impact on those who are super shy, speaking out in the group,” she said. “The confidence I’ve seen shine. Understanding that it’s OK to be a woman and be a leader and not have people say you’re just being bossy. It’s amazing to watch them bloom every week and we’ve only been doing it for four weeks.”
All throughout the district, groups of girls in the ROX program are gathering to navigate the challenges of adolescence, learning how to feel confident in sharing their opinions, standing up for themselves and making good decisions for their futures.
This year, the ROX program has expanded to 17 schools as part of a district-wide effort to provide opportunities for every girl to participate in a ROX group — if they are interested — from the fifth-grade to their senior year in high school.
“We’re excited about the future of what it could do for our students,” said Jessie Martin, the district’s Director of Student Well-Being.
The Westerville Education Foundation, Westerville Education Challenge, the district’s Student Well-Being Department and ROX have provided additional support to cover training costs and bring the program to their buildings this year.
Previously, only a handful of buildings hosted ROX groups: Westerville North High School launched one during the 2021-22 school year. Westerville Central High School restarted a group in 2021 after launching its first ROX sessions for students in spring 2019.
Mark Twain Elementary debuted the program in 2020 while Blendon Middle School resumed their group last school year after hosting one prior to the pandemic. School counselor Alisha Porter, who has been a ROX facilitator since 2016, hosted ROX groups at Whittier Elementary for two years before bringing it to Robert Frost Elementary where it has been in place for five years.
“This is just a powerful program for girls to enhance themselves, to learn more about themselves, to stand up for themselves and to be an advocate for themselves,” Mark Twain counselor Serena Casale said.
She kicked off the first meeting of Mark Twain’s ROX program on Tuesday, welcoming the 15 fifth-graders to the group and explaining what to expect in their future gatherings.
“As a girl, as a female, as a young lady, we can take control over things that happen in our lives,” Casale said to the students. “What we talk about over the next 20 weeks…we can be real here.”
At Minerva Park Middle School, counselor Nicole Wermert and mental health specialist Bethany Hendricks focused this week’s ROX meeting on navigating friendships and difficult peer relationships. They talked about one of the biggest challenges they face in middle school — drama — and how to have assertive conversations to mitigate conflicts. Students acted out scenarios that depicted conflict with each other and how they would resolve them.
For sixth-grader Skylar Trail, the ROX group at Minerva Park has helped boost her self-esteem and discover what kind of person she is.
“I’m finding out different personalities about myself,” she said. “I learned that I’m not the person that I thought I was. I thought I was a mean person, but coming into this group, I found out I’m nice. It’s helping my personality grow to be a better person.”
- Alcott Elementary
- Blendon Middle School
- Cherrington Elementary
- Fouse Elementary
- Genoa Middle School
- Hanby Elementary
- Hawthorne Elementary
- Heritage Middle School
- Huber Ridge Elementary
- Mark Twain Elementary
- McVay Elementary
- Minerva France Elementary
- Minerva Park Middle School
- Robert Frost Elementary
- Walnut Springs Middle School
- Westerville Central High School
- Westerville City Schools
- Westerville North High School
- Wilder Elementary