Monday, May 24, 1999

Girls' club combines fun with life's lessons

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ileria Harrison, 13, now knows where and when to use a salad fork or a soup spoon when eating in a restaurant. Angelica Hall, 10, knows how to carry on a pleasant conversation.

        Tacarra Lavender, 11, can give advice on how to sit properly when wearing a dress.

        They are part of AWESOME, a program funded by the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund at Parham Elementary School in Evanston.

        AWESOME means Achieving With Extension Students of Mastering Excellence. It is designed to help build self-esteem among African-American girls in the fifth and sixth grades at the school, said Deborah Carney, a community specialist agent with the program.

        There are 35 girls in the program, which is run by the Ohio State University Hamilton County Extension, Ms. Carney said.

        “This is an after-school program that meets every Thursday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the school. It is more like a club where we emphasize self-confidence, responsibility, respect, conflict management, posture, table manners and most of all self-esteem,” she said.

        Angelica, a fifth-grader, likes to talk about the respect phase.

        “I have been in the program since last October and I have learned that you need to have respect for others, especially adults. You shouldn't talk back to adults,” she said.

        Ileria likes the idea of going into a restaurant, knowing that the first fork she uses should be the one farthest from her plate.

        “It gives you a little bit of self-confidence when you know what you are doing,” said Ileria, a sixth-grader.

        And no belly-flopping when you sit, said Tacarra, a sixth-grader.

        “You belly-flop when you sit, your shoulders are hunched down and your stomach in porched out. It's bad posture,” she said.

        Ms. Carney said they give lectures on nutrition, good study habits, book reports, personal hygiene, art history, how to budget time and money.

        “Before we took a trip to Washington, D.C., in April, we had a session on art history with an expert coming in to talk to them,” she said. “I wanted them to understand and appreciate the art places we visited in Washington.”

        Summer activities will include a session on gardening and the girls will do a gar den project, Ms Carney said.

        “We will meet twice a month during the summer. We have a trip planned to Kings Island and there will be lots of drill and double Dutch practices,” Ms. Carney said.

        Lawra J. Baumann, assistant vice president at Fifth Third Bank and foundation officer, said the program grew out of the Schmidlapp Fund distribution committee's decision to support programs that meet the needs of women and girls.

        “We want to help them make good life choices, build self-esteem and develop academic excellence,” Ms. Baumann said.

        Last year the fund distributed $394,726 to 10 girls' programs, including AWESOME.

        The fund was created 91 years ago by Jacob G. Schmidlapp, Fifth Third Bank president who had lost his daughter, Charlotte Rose, in an accident. He intended to create a legacy for Cincinnati women in memory of his daughter.

        Fifth Third administers the fund.


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