Making change, learning leadership

Sharnique Walton is one of the Girls for Change

Seventh grader Sharnique Walton is concerned about police brutality.

Hunger relief is an issue that eighth grader Aryanna McCrary would like to work on. 

Eighth grader Nazaria Spears wants to bring awareness to the ways society objectifies women.

All three girls are members of Girls for Change, a Godwin Middle School group that helps girls develop skills to create social change. They meet twice a week to learn about big social problems and to work on solutions.

Nazaria Spears is another Girls for Change member

On a recent Monday, members spent the morning creating a public service announcement at West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. The message: Don’t body shame girls and women.

“We all feel strongly about abuse, objectification and judgments toward our gender,” said Aryanna.

The girls settled on the message for their current project during a brainstorm session at one of their recent meetings. It will be shown in school and posted on social media.

Margie Muñoz advises the Girls for Change group

A Commitment to Justice

“If we provide the space for girls to learn and explore these topics, they know how to handle them, they know how to think critically through them,” said Adviser Margie Muñoz, community school coordinator for Kent School Services Network.

Muñoz secured grant funding from the YWCA to start a Girls for Change chapter in her building. To be involved, girls had to fill out applications. As a condition of participation, they have to be on track with grades, attendance and behavior. They give up one lunch period and one advisory period per week to participate.

Aryanna McCrary participates in Girls for Change at Godwin Heights Middle School

Sharnique said Middle School Principal Bradley Tarrance suggested she join the group. She says it’s a good way to learn about issues like human trafficking and to develop leadership skills.

“We want to change the world,” said Sharnique.

Muñoz said the experience has been enlightening and empowering.
“They’re fully committed, and now they are working on developing social justice skills and speaking up for what they care about,” said Muñoz. “They’re amazing. They’re super-powerful, and I’m really impressed by them.”

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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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