Teens empower the younger generation to become leaders

Lakewood High Schoolers create and implement their Women Who Lead afterschool club at Rooney Ranch Elementary

Posted 5/1/19

Elizabeth Crim and Kaylyn Buchanan have been friends since the second grade. The two, now juniors at Lakewood High School, got together for coffee last year and started talking about how women are …

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Teens empower the younger generation to become leaders

Lakewood High Schoolers create and implement their Women Who Lead afterschool club at Rooney Ranch Elementary

Posted

Elizabeth Crim and Kaylyn Buchanan have been friends since the second grade.

The two, now juniors at Lakewood High School, got together for coffee last year and started talking about how women are treated in today’s global society.

“It’s something we’re passionate about,” Buchanan said. “We wanted to do something that would empower the young women in our society.”

Thus, they formed Women Who Lead, an afterschool club for girls in grades three through five at Rooney Ranch Elementary School in Lakewood.

“We encouraged (the girls) to pursue their own leadership roles, now and in the future,” Crim said. “The girls became more confident in their place in society.”

The club had its first meeting in September 2018 and has met 16 times. It had 11 members from Rooney Ranch and three student volunteers from Dunstan Middle School, also in Lakewood. Libby Vernon, a retired teacher from Rooney Ranch, served as the club’s advisor and Michael Orthun, an eighth grade English teacher at Dunstan, helped with some of the club’s programming.

“We care about equality,” said Lisa Lambert, one of the Dunstan students, who was speaking on behalf of herself and the other two eighth-grade volunteers, Paschana Minter and Mazzy Mason. “We don’t believe that females should be treated better than males or vice versa. We just believe in what’s right.”

Crim and Buchanan designed and taught all of the club’s curriculum, which included a variety of hands-on activities that required the girls to use their imaginations and/or envision themselves as a leader. For example, club members created a female superhero, became entrepreneurs and started their own business, and learned about strong historical and modern-day women through books and videos.

“They learned the realm of possibility that’s open to them in life,” Orthun said. “There’s nothing that should be allowed to hold them back.”

Vernon, who has known Crim and Buchanan since they were third-and-fourth graders at Rooney Ranch, said she is proud of them “beyond words.”

“As a teacher, I know this was not a small endeavor,” Vernon said. “Seeing them put something like this into motion is inspiring and exciting. It has been phenomenal watching how much the girls in the group have matured since the first meeting.”

The club’s culminating event took place on April 25 with Jefferson County Commissioner Leslie Dahlkemper as a guest speaker.

Dahlkemper talked about her career as a journalist, a member of the school board and now, a county commissioner.

“What you see as success will change through the years,” Dahlkemper told the nine club members in attendance that day. “Know that it’s OK if you take detours along the way. You have so much to do with your life and so many things you can pursue.”

She discussed with the girls that it’s OK to make mistakes and that “sometimes, the best solutions come from collaborating with others who have a different perspective.”

Third-grader Darwin Neff said she learned a lot from the club’s meetings, and especially had fun listening to Dahlkemper tell her story.

“I learned the importance of staying calm and not letting others’ ideas of us be the limit of us,” Neff said.

Crim and Buchanan are happy that the club was a success.

“We learned we can make a difference and that we can impact a group of girls who are willing to improve themselves and the world around them,” Crim said.

Buchanan agreed.

“Making change doesn’t have to be something huge,” she said. “Something small can make a big difference.”

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