The girls of Lakeside High School have found a way to remove the negative connotations of peer pressure.
Through a new club, Ladies First, older teens are taking on the mantle of mentor to a group of freshmen girls.
"There are ladies here with leadership abilities and those with potential leadership abilities," said Mariah Roland, a 17-year-old senior who helped found the club. "We want to put those people together to help those with that potential to find it."
At the request of school administrators, Mariah, with fellow seniors Raven Jackson and Jessica Jenkins, started the roughly 50-member club.
The teens sought out positive female role models within the school to pair with freshmen girls and provide encouragement.
Raven, Lakeside's student body president, recalled looking up to an exemplary senior girl when she was a freshman and how that inspired her.
"She was involved in everything and was such a strong person," Raven said. "I wanted to be like her and worked to become like her."
As a senior, Raven said, she strives to be that same kind of role model for younger girls, who often seek mentors nearer their own ages.
"Girls who may not feel like they have anything in common with an adult will look to someone their own age for advice or help," she said. "Ladies First is about making sure they look to the right people."
The club's sponsor, Assistant Principal Melanie Sprouse, said the group meets monthly to discuss such topics as building relationships, conflict resolution, self-esteem and self-defense.
"I've seen the changes myself," Sprouse said. "Where once one of these girls might have gotten into an argument that easily could have escalated into a fight, they will seek to resolve the argument with talking and conflict resolution."
Those helped by the club also show a greater interest in academics and other social clubs, Sprouse said.
"Studies show that students involved in extracurricular activities perform better in school," she said. "They feel invested in school now."
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