By Allison Ward
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio.
Looking through Seventeen, Allure and other magazines, a group of seventh-grade girls at Walnut Springs Middle School ripped out pictures of singer Taylor Swift, actress Jennifer Lawrence and various fashion models.
The activity, during a lunchtime meeting of Chick Chat at the Westerville school, was designed to explore the media definition — and their own — of beauty.
Maria Slovikovski, a sophomore at nearby Otterbein University, leads the weekly gathering of 14 girls.
Other students from Otterbein run similar groups for sixth-graders (Girl Talk) and eighth-graders (Girls Are Really Awesome).
“Just because the media portray us as pretty doesn’t mean we’re perfect,” Slovikovski told the girls.
Such advice — coupled with information about trust, self-esteem and bullying — is what Slovikovski has offered the middle schoolers the past two years.
At age 19, though, she finds that she sometimes needs guidance, too.
Fortunately, she has a community mentor — Matina Zenios, president of a promotions business in Powell — who might help her with a LinkedIn profile; a job-shadowing idea; or a connection in public relations, her major.
So, just as Otterbein steered Slovikovski to Walnut Springs, the university introduced her to Zenios in February as part of the Otterbein Women’s Leadership Network (the NET), a mentoring program that involves training, education and networking.
“Women in general bring a lot of positive things to the table,” Zenios said. “There are stigmas that still kind of apply, mindsets that we’re not deserving of some things. The more confident women can become, the stronger their voices will be, the more successful they’ll be.
“This program is extremely powerful.”
The intergenerational system is intended to create and foster female leaders in central Ohio.
The program was founded in 2011 by Kathy Krendl, president of Otterbein, and other female staff members.