“I am beautiful” a teen girl says.”

“And you are beautiful: you have a beautiful smile, you have pretty eyes, and I like your hair,” another says.

“Y’all are some beautiful girls, I mean I would have a lot to say, you’re not being arrogant, it’s you” Shawanda Wells reminds the group of girls who are gathered around the room for a mirror affirmation workshop titled “Hello Beautiful.”

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Just Us Girls volunteers pose for a group photo. Photo by Rodricka Foreman.

The young women are here participating in a “Just Us Girls” event held at the Rosa Jackson Community Center in east Macon. Self-esteem building is one of the central themes of the event.

“It starts with you–you can’t wait for the outside world to tell you you’re beautiful,” Shawanda adds.

The girls ranged in ages from eleven to eighteen. They are sitting at a table, each one with a mirror in front of them, and they take turns looking in their mirror and saying what they love about themselves.

If a girl does not seem to be sure of herself or comfortable in identifying something beautiful about herself, Wells chimes in to reaffirm their beauty. She is quick to reinforce her message of how important it is to have confidence.

The “Hello Beautiful” workshop is one of many workshops that took place at the first annual Just Us Girls day and workshop.

“Are you an only child?”

“Have you ever broken a bone and had to wear a cast?”

These are some of the questions that the girls ask each other during a game of human bingo, which was used as an ice breaker at the opening of the Just Us Girls event.

In a room full of girls, there is plenty of chatter and laughter as the girls get to know each other through the icebreaker. The game forces them to ask questions and talk to each, and it is a great way to teach them how to talk to and interact with others.

And what better way is there to get to know another girl, besides talking to her while hits from artist like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Ciara play in the background?

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Just Us Girls volunteer Shawanda Wells leads mirror affirmations during the Hello Beautiful workshop. Photo by Rodricka Foreman.

After the icebreaker, the girls participated in the “Get Pumped Up” portion of the event. There, in the gymnasium, the girls along with the volunteers of the event took part in Zumba, an exercise program that incorporates fitness and dance into one. The girls really enjoyed, especially when the Zumba instructor included some of the latest dance crazes, making it very relatable to the girls.

After the icebreaker and Zumba, the girls enjoyed lunch before breaking off into groups and participating in various workshops. From proper bra fittings and Hygiene 101, to making homemade sugar scrubs, all things girl were covered in various workshops.

The girls got a chance to participate in team building exercises with one girl saying she felt the team building exercises were important because “we need to stick together and have each other’s back.”

And what would a girls’ day be without hair and makeup? Workshops about hair were held by professional volunteers from the community. The girls were able to ask questions to a local cosmetologist and salon owner, Beverly Pitts, owner of Hairlines Beauty Salon and Boutique, which is located at 2515 New Clinton Road in Macon.

Beverly held a drawing and awarding three girls with gift certificates for a free salon visit at her salon. She also educated the girls on some basics of hair care and styling, and each girl left with a small bag of free hair care samples and styling tools.

During a makeup session the girls were given tips on makeup basics, but they were also reassured that they are already beautiful without makeup and that makeup is only there to accent their natural beauty.

Throughout the day the girls participated in several other events, all with a focus on girl power, positivity and empowerment.

“Just Us Girls” was created by Stephanie Atmore, an employee with Macon Bibb Parks and Recreation with a long history of volunteer service and commitment to youth.

Stephanie states she has “always had a passion to work with people, and help people. Recreation is the department where you can do that, its hands on and you’re in the middle of everything.”

Stephanie also adds, “We are very strongly based into basketball and sports, and there’s a majority of activities geared towards men and boys. You’ll have a couple of girls into sports, but I saw that there weren’t too many things geared towards our girls, our females. So, I just wanted to get a template going, get something in the community where it’s just female and girl based, and this was our template, this was our intro.”

Stephanie goes on to add that after reaching out to people who come into the community center, they set a date for the event and things grew from there. Stephanie hopes that next year the event can be bigger and better, with plans to add an event for girls 10 and under eventually.

After all workshops were complete, all of the girls and staff gathered back into the gymnasium for the closing ceremony.

During the ceremony, each girl received a rose and the staff and girls read a poem aloud together, with the last line being “I am Beautiful,” a statement I am sure each girl went home believing after the positive affirmation and team building exercises of the day..

The event was free to all girls ages 11-18, with girls from Bibb County and Jones County in attendance. Anyone interested in volunteering for the next “Just us Girls” event or for more information about events at the Rosa Jackson Community Center, contact Stephanie Atmore at (478) 751-9169.