Empowering Young Butterflies

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Smiling Aquebogue Elementary School students sat chatting over cookies and juice boxes in the school’s library on March 14, eagerly waiting for Butterfly Effect founder Tijuana Fulford to get the afternoon’s activities underway.

The 25 girls were selected to participate in the Butterfly Effect program, a nonprofit that aims to empower girls through a variety of enrichment activities and friendship. Now in its fifth year, the initiative runs once biweekly during the school day.  

During this particular session, each girl was given the name of a strong woman and asked to impersonate her. In previous sessions, the girls had drawn self-portraits and participated in a talent show, catwalk and chit-chat sessions, where they share anything on their minds. They were also visited by a step team, who drove home the importance of teamwork. 

The girls are also in the process of writing haikus with Melissa Dolber Grappone, co-author of “Be Never Afraid to Fly,” a haiku basics workbook. The young authors’ final haikus will be published in a second book Grappone is working on.    

“We offer the tools to achieve and a safe space where the girls can build their self-esteem,” said Fulford. 

In addition to these enriching sessions, the free program offers girls opportunities beyond the school day, such as dance classes and field trips.