Dianna Flett created Girl Smarts when her son shared some of the challenges that his female peers were enduring as they transitioned into middle school.
“I had been the PTO president at my son’s [elementary] school and I saw these girls who had the world at their feet leaving elementary school. Then when my son was in middle school, he was concerned at their crash in confidence and said, ‘Mom, you have to do something,’” says Flett.
“I called the school and told them I could teach them. I wanted to do something. I asked myself, ‘Why are we waiting for these girls to turn 21 or 22 to tell them to lean in. We need to get them at 9 or 10.’ So we started with 24 girls at Margaret Brent Elementary School with 24 girls at four workshops,” says Flett. “I did a lot of research. I started reading a lot of the different studies that had been done on girls ages 9 and 10. Girls’ self-esteem peaks at 9. It falls based on body image and bullying behaviors.”
Flett, a 21-year military veteran who was teaching leadership and management strategies at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, knew that she could scale the courses she was teaching there to help girls of all ages grow in resilience, strength and self-esteem.
“We’re seeing over and over that input from media and society can be confusing for girls. In the world that these kids live in—a pretty instantaneous gratification world—the classic millennial needs to learn skills that teach them resilience and that hard work is how they accomplish great things,” she says. “Girl Smart skills teaches them to move from instant gratification and to see that life gives you what you put into it. That may be failing over and over again and not giving up until you get what you want. Resilience brings fulfillment.”
Her passion for helping reshape girls has paid off. The program is now in 17 schools in three counties, with 462 girls participating in 10 workshops each year. She hears often how her program has changed the life of a girl. It’s a constant reminder of why Girl Smarts matters.
“The administrators like what it does for the girls, the parents like the reinforcement, and the girls like it because it’s fun and it’s leadership oriented and gives them skills to empower themselves and feel stronger,” says Flett.
“It gives them the ability and the courage to step outside of their box. As soon as they step out of their box, it gets bigger. The more they do that, they more courage they get. And when a girl has courage, it opens up her world. Empowerment is about giving people skills they might not have had to help them feel stronger.”
Visit Girl Smarts online at www.girlsmarts.com.