CHATHAM, NJ - How often do adults tell young girls… ‘Be strong, you are beautiful, you are capable, you got it, don’t do this - do that, who cares what other people think.'

Those things are easy for adults to say and kids understand their words, but really believing them in a whole different thing.  

Recently, Madeline Schroeder hosted an event for 21 middle school girls in an attempt to help them begin to believe. The event, titled “This Girl Fights Back,” was a step in the process for Schroeder, a sophomore at Chatham High, working toward earning her Girl Scout Gold Award.

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The goal of her event was to educate, empower and inspire middle school girls by raising their self-awareness, improving their communication skills, encouraging self-respect and teaching them practical life skills to help stay safe. She hoped the girls who attended would also benefit from an increase in self-confidence and assertiveness, as well as improved decision making skills.

Three dynamic experts shared their knowledge and experience at the event. Tom Patire, one of America’s premier personal safety experts, worked to empower the girls both physically and mentally.

They learned the safest and most effective methods of personal protection and escape. Later, Christopher Tomaino, a retired Chatham Borough Police Sergeant with twenty six years of experience on the force, spoke about communication with parents, peer pressure, personal safety, social media and other issues teens face in our community and schools today.

Finally, Chris Holle, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner with over 30 years of experience, helped the girls learn more about themselves. She facilitated an interactive discussion during which the girls responded to scenarios designed to help them to think through situations and consider the consequences of their actions. Her goal was to help the girls recognize their worth, empower them, increase their self-esteem, and promote healthy relationships.

Overall, it was a truly amazing day that has hopefully left a lasting impact on all of the girls. Following this successful event, Schroeder will continue to encourage the Chatham Board of Education to include something similar into the new high school health curriculum because she truly believes all girls will benefit from such a program.