CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A girl power message is spreading at Central Middle School in Cape Girardeau through a new mentoring program built for young ladies.
The Tiger Lillies program was formed when a few female students approached guidance counselor Becky Wright last September about making their own group similar to the Honorable Young Men’s club.
Wright says Tiger Lilies is a diverse mix of at-risk students who may struggle in school or with their self-esteem as well as more strong and independent students who can act as role models.
“We started out with probably 25 girls. It just grew and grew and we’ve started this year with 70 girls,” Wright said. “It’s amazing, and there are probably 100 more that would like to be Tiger Lillies.”
New recruit Aleyah Perez, a student at the middle school, says she has been bullied before, but now that she is a Tiger Lily Perez wants to be a hero that steps in when someone else is bullied.
“A girl standing up for herslef is like the best thing anyone could ever do, and I always wondered if I could do that too if I was confident in myself,” the fifth grader said. “Some people actually try to harm themselves because of bullying. It makes me feel happy and excited because I know that I can help someone and save their life by standing up for them.”
Wrights says the program encourages girls to believe in themselves by enhancing their individuality while also promoting positive peer relationships.
“Showing those kids yes you can be a doctor, you can be a lawyer, you can be in the military,” Wright said. “It’s about empowering the girls, teaching them what they deserve, how they deserve to be treated and how they should be treating others.”
And Wright says mentors from a variety of backgrounds help teach those lessons during field trips and team building activities.
“We have a big fashion show coming up where we talk a lot about inner beauty and what makes us beautiful on the inside,” Wright said. “One of our custodians teaches us how to check the air in our tire and their oil. Just letting them know you can do this and it’s OK for you to know how to do this.”
Wright says there have been many success stories including fifth grader Halaza Hamilton, who says she used to get in trouble for not listening to teachers.
“When I first came to Tiger Lillies I actually thought it was going to be boring, like we are going to have to sit there a learn math,” Hamilton said. “But now since I'm in there my grades have went up. At home I'm actually doing good, and at school I'm actually doing better.”
Hamilton says she now thinks of the Tiger Lilly pledge when she gets up every morning.
“I can be a lady. I am strong, I am powerful. I can improve,” the fifth grader said. “And it actually reminds me that I am special.”
Wright’s ambition is to expand the program into grade levels at other Cape Public Schools.
“That way we can build those mentor-student relationships that help with graduation and career development all the up through school,” she said. “I truly believe those relationships are what is going to make the difference.”