Those are the opinions of Diane Richie of the Grace Lutheran Church’s Bayonne Girls Unite and Youth Empowerment leadership programs, two groups dedicated to giving young adults the skills needed for growing up and for living successfully the rest of their lives.
“Our mission is to empower young girls with life skills of (interpersonal) communication and public speaking,” said Richie, program director of both Girls Unite and Youth Empowerment, referring to Girls Unite. It’s the same for the girls and boys in Youth Empowerment.
“They need all these skills to survive in the outside world,” Richie said. “They need to be able to take care of themselves at all times.”
When they are able to understand and communicate their feelings, they are able to grow more easily into healthy emotional adults, she said.
Other topics the two organizations address are bullying, peer pressure, and use of the Internet. Martial arts are also incorporated into the children’s instruction.
Leaders of both organizations agree that they learn a lot from the monthly meetings and adult stewardship.
“I learned how to ask for help if I was a victim of bullying, or taken advantage of,” said Gabrielle Trimblett, 12, head of Girls Unite. “I learned how to really stick up for myself and how to reach out to others; how to help others if they were being bullied.”
Emma Kostenbader, 14, had been a member of Trimblett’s group but has moved up to Youth Empowerment, which has older members and includes boys.
“It’s nice to be in a group with no drama, no judgment, no tension,” she said. “We didn’t grow up together, but we feel really close. It’s nice to be around that.”
Trimblett said she liked her group because it not only assists her in growing, but that it gives her the ability to give back.
“I’m doing things to help other children,” she said. “Helping people is a neat thing to do. I know now some things I can tell other people; what I learned here. I can help and give others advice.”
Groups are open to all
“Diane has a real heart and enthusiasm for our young people,” said Rev. Gary A. Grindeland, church pastor.
While based at the church, the groups are for children of any faith, and accept those from outside Bayonne. One former participant was from Jersey City, and a current one comes from Piscataway.
How to get involved
The Bayonne Girls Unite and Youth Empowerment programs meet once a month on Friday evenings from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the game room at the church hall. It is open to girls from 8 to 12 years old. The next Girls Unite meeting is Feb. 21.
The Youth Empowerment program is for older children of both sexes. Its next meeting is Feb. 7.
Both groups are always looking for new members to join, to help, and to be helped.
For more information about either program, call Richie at (201) 858-0291.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.