McKinley-Brighton Sisterhood Program Creates Sense of Community
Published on 1/15/19
District News McKinley-Brighton Elementary School
Each Friday, a group of 35 fourth and fifth grade girls gathers in the McKinley-Brighton library. They open their journals and write about the ups and downs of their week. Then, they discuss their entries as a group.
As part of the Sisterhood Program, the students also partner with members of Syracuse University’s Lambda Theta Alpha sorority, as well as other SU volunteers.
New this school year, the program came about when Ms. Pichardo-Kemp saw a need for a group that would support young girls. She made a connection with an SU student with a similar vision, and the partnership began.
“I wanted to start a group that would allow the girls to feel a part of something outside of their immediate family,” Ms. Pichardo-Kemp explained. “The Sisterhood Program helps us build relationships so we can help identify students who may be struggling with academic or social/emotional issues – and allows us to start supporting those students.”
“I always wanted to find a different way of teaching, as opposed to the general school curriculum,” Syracuse University senior Mariah Bermeo said. “I believe that love and empowerment are critical components of building strong future leaders, and I wanted to teach these things in a group run entirely by women of color. By doing so, we’re opening new doors for these girls and providing a space for them to open up about things they’ve been holding onto – and working with them on those things.”
The group has addressed issues including mental health, the black diaspora, privilege, health concerns and beautifying the neighborhood through art – among other things.
“We have seen such a change in how the girls interact with each other,” Ms. Pichardo-Kemp added. “The girls say the group helps them communicate better with each other and with their families; they’re more receptive to following directions; and they get a sense of the impact they can make on the larger community.”
Weekly activities have ranged from visiting Brady Farm to learn about gardening and healthy eating to writing thank you notes to someone who inspires them to building gingerbread houses, making stress balls and more. But the girls say the real takeaway is much larger.
“In the Sisterhood, we all love each other and care for each other,” fourth grader Georgelyz Pizarro-Santiago said. “We like to do activities together, but my favorite thing is just spending time with each other. We’ve learned a lot, like that if we make a mistake or hurt someone’s feeling, we apologize and say we’re sorry.”
“I like the Sisterhood, because we can talk about our problems,” fifth grader Abrionna Deuel added. “In here, we have more time to talk to each other and make friends.”
Thank you to Lambda Theta Alpha and the other Syracuse University volunteers who have helped inspire this group of McKinley-Brighton leaders!