Kelsey Martin and Maia Petersen spend every Thursday afternoon investing in the lives of our KIPPsters, specifically our girls at KIPP SHINE.
Kelsey grew up in New Jersey and has been teaching at SHINE for three years. As a women gender studies major, gender equality has always been a passion of hers. One year ago, Kelsey founded the RISE Like a Girl organization on SHINE’s campus. Every Thursday, 20 third and fourth graders meet to discuss different relevant topics and journal their feelings.
“The journals spur conversation, help develop reflection skills, and make the girls better thinkers,” Kelsey explained.
Kelsey describes the group as a sisterhood that has developed overtime because of the bond from their conversations. The girls have discussed topics such as the 62 million girls campaign and what educational equality looks like, as well as why girls need to support each other and unite.
“I think it is so important that a group like this exists,” Kelsey said. “I wish someone had told me at a young age that my voice matters. I want these girls to know they have the power to express themselves and the skills and tools needed to do whatever it is they want to accomplish.”
Maia grew up in Chicago and teaches second grade at SHINE. Maia started SHINE’s Girls on the Run, a running club that helps girls overcome insecurities. When Kelsey and Maia met, they realized their passions aligned and wanted to work with RISE Like a Girl together. Maia now teaches the second-grade RISE girls.
“The most important thing we do is make them aware of stereotypes in the world that they just see as truth,” Maia explained. “The other week I gave them cards and told them to draw someone who fixes cars, who teaches children, who puts out fire, etc. Every drawing fit a stereotype of man or woman. We had a great discussion of why we perceive roles a certain way but also why they don’t have to be like that. Making them aware of the stereotypes allows the girls to overcome them.”
Recently Maia was in class with one of the girls and saw her teachings put into action. The girl came running up saying, “I played soccer with the boys today, and I am just as good!” Aha moments like these make the extra time and effort worth it for teachers.
“So many girls grow up not understanding that things don’t have to be the way that they are,” Maia said. “They don’t have to play with dolls or wear dresses and that’s okay. They need to know how to find their voice, stick up for themselves, and express when they are uncomfortable with something. It is critical that they know from a young age that they are powerful and have amazing abilities.”
KIPP’s Mission Reflected
Both Kelsey and Maia noted that the mission of RISE Like a Girl directly relates to the mission of KIPP. “KIPP is providing educational opportunities for students that a lot of people in the world think won’t go to college or be successful in life,” Maia explains. “KIPP is putting the knowledge into their head that they can and will do it. RISE Like a Girl is taking it a step further and letting girls know they can be whatever they want to be.”