A house for girls to come into

It’s a pretty sneaky idea, offering free hairstyles and makeup applications to get teen girls to think about how they treat themselves and others.

Brilliantly sneaky, if you ask me.

It’s just too bad that unless someone steps up to fill the gap, today’s My Beaut ‘I’ Ful Self event could be Iowa City’s last.

Johnson County Social Services Community Projects Specialist LaTasha Massey started the program back in 2009, when she noticed so much fighting among young girls in the area — especially among young African-American girls.

“I just really feel like we’re in a crisis with young women,” Massey told me this week.

“The social work term is ‘relational aggression,’ but I just call it Mean Girls,” she said. “You can see them just sit and pick each other apart.”

Mean Girls have been around forever, but it’s different now — more aggressive. More incessant.

So Massey started My Beaut ‘I’ Ful Self as a sort of child-abuse and pregnancy prevention program. Really, what she wanted to do was create a “house for young women to come into.” A way to help girls learn to take care of themselves and be aware of others.

More than 200 girls — mostly Latina, African-American and African refugees — have attended My Beaut ‘I’ Ful Self events, she said. It’s been a great program, “quite successful.”

“I know it’s been effective because I see it in the women who are now 17-18 that went through this,” she said. “They’re still in touch.”

All the program helpers are volunteer. “Everybody’s coming for free, to help, because we know what it was like to be a teenager,” she said. Using thrift and calling for favors, Massey pieces together the rest.

For today’s daylong program, she teamed up with Salon Professional Academy. Hence, the hairstyles. But most of the day will be given over the idea of respect: Respecting yourself, respecting others, respecting authority. Forty girls had registered by Thursday — a full house.

But when it is over, Massey will give up My Beaut ‘I’ Ful Self in order to pursue other projects, although she’ll keep working on a similar, newer, program for boys.

“For me, it’s kind of the end of a chapter,” she said.

She would love to pass the girls’ program along so that it keeps filling this important need.

“The ground’s already broken, the structure is there,” she said, enticing.

“Won’t someone step up to make sure this house stays open?”

Comments: (319) 339-3154; jennifer.hemmingsen@sourcemedia.net

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