Powerful stories shared ~ Lives Changed ~ Mentorships Aligned
Those are some of the results of the recent Dream It, Be It (DIBI) offered by Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley to five local high schools. DIBI is designed to empower and encourage girls to set positive personal and career goals.
This is the third year Soroptimist has offered DIBI as part of a national requirement. This year, 450 girls signed up for the approved curriculum, taught by Chair Maggie-Mae Laufman and other GSCV Soroptimist members.
“Maggie-Mae created an astronomical expansion of the program,” explained Sue Reynolds Buckley, fellow Soroptimist and career development coordinator for the William S. Hart Union High School District.
When Laufman joined Soroptimist last May and asked how to get involved, president Kim Kurkowski told her a chair was needed for DIBI. After agreeing to chair, Laufman discovered that the program desperately needed updating, time, and younger Soroptimist GSCV members.
“I got an amazing response from 5 incredible ladies, who joined Soroptimist solely for this program. We called ourselves the Dream Team,” Laufman said.
One of the most powerful moments in the curriculum was inspired by the movie “Freedom Writers.” To illustrate how students are connected, a Compton teacher asks them to “step to the line” if they’ve lost anyone to violence.
At DIBI, girls were asked to step to the line in response to questions such as the following: Do you come from a divorced family? Have you been bullied?
“I learned a lot about my peers in the line game,” said Hart High eleventh grader Sydney Illum. She added she felt more connected to many of the girls.
“Knowing others are going through the same thing that you are is a nice feeling,” Hart High senior Naibe Aguilar said. “You realize you’re not alone.”
In addition to the line activity, mentors led girls through various sections of a DIBI workbook, one constructed and updated by The Dream Team. The 6 lead mentors, Maggie-Mae Laufman, Nicole Cervantes, Brittany Barlog, Samantha Gianukakis, Krystina Reyes, and Kristelle Hughes, talked about personal connections to serious issues and shared statistics on various topics, such as Body Image, Domestic Violence, and Bullying. Girls enjoyed breakfast, donated by California Bakery, and lunch donated by Jersey Mike’s, and a keynote speaker at each event. Mia Francovich, who was born with a number of birth defects, was one of the speakers. As Francovich shared her painful past, she asked the girls to be a positive light for others: “Smile and say hi. It could make a huge difference in someone’s life.” She also asked them to stand up for someone being teased. The other Keynote Speaker for the DIBI program is Niamani Knight, Founder of the S.T.R.E.A.M Kids Expo (a non-profit that connects students with professions in Science, Technology, Reading, Education, Art, and Mathematics)
DIBI has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of local girls. Nearly a dozen girls stepped forward to share serious, personal issues and are now getting assistance from counselors and social workers.
“I knew this project would be empowering…,” Laufman said. “I am beyond humbled, and beyond belief at the response from the schools, students, and attendees.”
Laufman will present the modernized DIBI at the regional Soroptimist conference in Woodland Hills in April. It’s also slated for the agenda of the 45th biennial convention in Japan in August. Calgrove Media founder, Lisha Yakub Sevanian, is also making a short documentary showcasing the program.
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