The Bigger Picture in Little Minds

My name is Hailey Powell and I am a graduating senior double majoring in Psychology and Communication Studies. My Global Theme was Social Inequality and Human Rights and my Global Challenge centered around Women’s Right and mental health advocacy. For my Beyond the Classroom experience, I interned at the YWCA GUTS! (Girls Using Their Strengths) program here in Missoula, Montana. I facilitated three after-school groups, made and delivered activity kits for our virtual groups, and created a mental health curriculum to work into the GUTS! program. GUTS! focuses on building strong leadership skills within young girls (or those who identify differently but believe the program will be benefit them) and teaches and discusses important topics like friendship, diversity, body image, goals, and strengths. The goal of GUTS! is to cultivate a safe and welcoming environment to help give children the tools and discourse they need to acquire new and strengthen existing characteristics. My theme relates to my experience because I worked with kids who came from all different backgrounds. GUTS! is a trauma-informed program and tries to tackle, or at least open the conversation, about important issues surrounding race, equality, and gender differences. My theme also relates to my experience because of the mental health curriculum I created. It’s important to start the conversation about mental health early, so the signs and symptoms are easy to spot, while also providing local resources in case the participants needed it. It was age appropriate material that talked about depression and anxiety, and had an activity that gave them coping mechanisms.

My experience has strengthened my leadership skills vastly. Not only was I able to lead three groups of ten children or more, but I was able to be flexible in our sessions depending on the group needs. Some days my plans would not follow through and I would have to switch everything at the last minute. As a leader, it’s crucial to be adaptable. It also helped me learn how to interact with different types of people at that age level. Some kids were really closed off, while some were full of energy. My experience gave me experience on how to help kids come out of their shell and refocus those who needed it.

Some questions that were raised during my experience was how a program like GUTS! could be implemented at a larger scale. I’m sure other places around the United States have similar programs, but if something was held in public schools, I think it would change not only how women may view themselves as they grow up.

I am so thankful for my internship experience and the lessons it has taught me.